Former Free State MEC reveals details of meetings with Gupta brother
Johannesburg - Former Free State MEC of Finance Elizabeth Rockman told the Zondo commission about a series of meetings with the Gupta family regarding the monies owed to the family.
Rockman, who has since left working for the provincial government, told the commission that she had met one of the Gupta brothers, Rajesh Toni Gupta, who first pitched that the Free State government should subscribe to the newly established The New Age newspaper.
Rockman said she had been asked by former Free State premier Ace Magashule of the Gupta's interest in pitching for the advertising and support for The New Age. The support also included the provincial government purchasing 4000 copies of the paper daily.
"August 2011 I was informed by the Premier (Ace Magashule) that I should meet with people from the New Age and they wanted to meet before exco started. They presented a proposal that we should enter into a subscription agreement for the New Age. One of the Gupta brothers was there but I cannot remember who it was. The idea was that Premier would enter into a subscription on behalf of the entire Free State departments," she said.
Rockman said she had several meetings with the Toni Gupta during her tenure as at the finance department. She said some of the meetings would take place at the Gupta compound in Saxonworld and at times at the family's Sahara offices in Midrand.
The Guptas had an interest in the Vrede dairy farm project which Estina, a company linked to the family, was in partnership with the provincial government.
In 2012 the provincial government had signed an agreement with Estina for the establishment of a dairy farm project which was meant to benefit small farmers in the area. It established that the farm did not benefit those intended farmers and was instead distributed into Gupta-linked bank accounts.
Rockman said met with Rajesh Gupta who complained about the R84 million the provincial government owed to Estina. The government had paid R30 million at the time which was meant to start the project. The outstanding amount was being requested even though little work had been done on the farm and the project.
Rockman said she had visited the farm first in May 2013 and saw that there was some work done. But she said she became concerned when media reports circulated that cows were dying on the farm.
When she met with Toni Gupta, she was presented with a report from the SPCA which stated that the farm was doing well and the animals were not in danger.