Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins on Thursday denied allegations that he had been party to a meeting with a Gupta brother and Duduzane Zuma to discuss the controversial R30 million payout to former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe. PHOTO: Chantall Presence/ANA
PARLIAMENT - Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins on Wednesday told the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom that Tony Gupta threatened court action when he failed to subvert the tender process for new trains for the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Martins conceded that he interacted with the Gupta family over a period of several years, but claimed that a meeting he organised between Tony Gupta and the then CEO of Prasa, Lucky Montana, in 2012, was intended purely to discourage his demands that the tender process be reopened and the board of the agency be changed to facilitate this.

"I told him it was my understanding that the tender had run his course," he recalled was his response to Gupta's approach.

Martins, who was transport minister at the time, said he then organised a meeting with Montana and that they were later joined by Gupta and President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane.

He was at pains to point out that at the time, the Gupta family were simply businessmen of moderate means and not yet, in the public's view, "corruption incarnate" with a fortune of billions amassed through alleged illicit dealings with state-owned companies.

Martins said he arranged the meeting so that Tony Gupta could hear from Montana that the tender process had indeed been fair and had been concluded, so that he could reconsider his threat to rush to court.

"I saw nothing untoward in arranging this meeting as its aim was to clarify and give answers, I did not at any stage ask Mr Montana to irregularly or unlawfully influence anything," he said.

On Tuesday, the inquiry heard a different version from Montana who said he was shocked at Martins's conduct.

- African News Agency (ANA)