Former cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba denied that he took money from the Gupta family, that he invited them to his wedding or that he ever carried a bag big enough to hold large sums of cash, as his war of words with his estranged wife continued before the Zondo commission and went into ever more personal trivia on Monday.

Gigaba explained that he carried a small “man bag”, big enough for money for parking, technological essentials and some hand lotion. 

“I had no empty brown or black leather bag that was waiting for stacks of cash, so that they stayed in the boot of my car,” he added.

This was by way of refuting Norma Mngoma’s evidence that often, after the couple had visited the Gupta family’s Saxonwold home, they would proceed to Sandton City, where he ordered bespoke suits from HTK Sartoriale and paid cash with money taken from a bag in the back of his car.

Mngoma’s testimony, and that of his former driver, relating to their inferences that he received cash from the Guptas suggested that somebody had carefully coaxed them to implicate him, Gigabit reiterated.

Her testimony was littered with inconsistencies, he said, including the bag alternately being black and brown, but designed to convey a simple falsehood — that he took stacks of cash from the family at the heart of the state capture scandal.

Likewise, it was not true that she found him packing cash into their private safe and explained that the money was a donation from the family for the ANC’s election coffers.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo noted that Mngoma never told the commission that she saw the Guptas place money into her husband’s hands, but rather that after their visits he would have cash to spend and, hence, she drew a link.

“If she was fabricating the story that you got cash from the Guptas, why would she go about it in such a roundabout way: Why would she not simply lie directly?”

Gigabit replied: “Why is the commission explaining her affidavit?”

Zondo replied that the commission was not favouring her version, but analysing the two conflicting versions and setting out contradictions for the public benefit.

Mngoma’s testimony has included allegations that her husband owned an embarrassment of some 200 custom-made suits and that as well as HTK, he would go with her to Fabiani men’s store.

“This story of HTK, buying suits, paying loads of cash is inaccurate. I have not shopped for outfits at Fabiani,” Gigaba said.

He estimated that he spent no more than R70 000 on suits, and that he shopped at Fabiani rarely and only to buy cologne, and had not set foot there for years: not since he left cabinet in 2018, and definitely never with her. 

“I use my fragrances quite sparingly, many of them I still have … You don’t throw it in a bath tub and swim in it.”

Most of Gigaba’s suits were sponsored by local designers “because of my profile”, and said that he mainly visited HTK to buy smaller items, like T-shirts, or to alter his suits after he embarked on a weight-loss programme. 

Because the owners are personal friends, Gigaba said: “They would allow me to abuse them and pay for things over time.”

“She is lying in order to perpetuate her narrative … She knows that she is lying.”

The same applied to Mngoma’s testimony that Gigaba told her that the Guptas gave him cash for the ANC’s election fund, and that the family footed the bill for their Durban wedding and Dubai honeymoon, and paid for minor home renovations.

Gigaba said he had no idea who paid for their wedding, but believed his wife had done so from her considerable private wealth. As far as the Dubai trip was concerned, he redeemed air miles accrued as a minister for the flight tickets and other travel credits to pay for their hotel stay, which was definitely not at the Waldorf but almost certainly at a Hilton hotel, he said.

The dispute as to finer details of events extended to a trip to Mauritius, which Mngoma claimed then SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni sponsored. The couple’s versions differ as to whether this happened before or after their wedding but, in any event, Gigaba insists he was under the impression that his wife paid for it with her own funds.

He vehemently disputed that he afforded Mngoma the use of a BMW given to him by the Guptas, saying the vehicle in question “never existed”, that he afforded her the use of a credit card, and that the family paid for plumbing and tiling renovations.

“Plumbing and tiling is not expensive,” he said, adding that, as a minister whose flight costs and such were covered by the state, he had no reason to resort to graft to cover these.

Mngoma has disputed Gigaba’s testimony that he gave her a debit card with a limit of R3 000, famously saying he knew well there was nothing she could do with that sum. Her remark prompted outrage on social media, given South Africa’s poverty levels.

On Monday, Gigaba insisted that he afforded her the use of a Nedbank card with said daily limit and added that R3 000 would be considered a luxury by many citizens.

But his worst outrage was reserved for his former partner’s claims that he turned to the Guptas to pay off his family’s debt.

“This is an insult that is very painful towards me and my family. I would be happy if it was me she was destroying and demeaning …” he said, then apologised to Zondo, saying he had not raised his voice in disrespect to the commission, but felt hurt because his parents had worked hard all their lives and he had always been ready to assist them.

The former minister of home affairs, public enterprises and finance was scheduled to conclude his testimony on Monday, but it was agreed that he would return later this month, probably this week, to do so.