Reverend Frank Chikane testified at the State Capture Commission in Parktown. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - Former director-general in the presidency Frank Chikane said on Tuesday that the ability of the Guptas to infiltrate the government and corrupt the country’s officials resembled an intelligence operation.

Chikane was speaking at the Zondo Judicial Commission of Inquiry probing allegations of state capture, corruption and fraud in the public sector, including organs of state.

Members of the controversial Gupta family, who were close friends of former president Jacob Zuma, were allegedly able to obtain millions of rand from questionable contracts with government departments and state-owned entities.

According to Chikane, the family had been successful in creating relationships with politicians, just as intelligence operatives would.

“If such an intelligence operation was in place, I would have been surprised if our national intelligence services missed it,” Chikane said.

His testimony also corroborated certain aspects of the evidence previously presented by former Government Communications and Informations Systems boss Themba Maseko in relation to his meeting with the Guptas.

Last year, Maseko told the commission how he was called by a Gupta brother who sought assistance as the family wanted access to the GCIS’ R600million advertising budget.

At the time, he alleged that Zuma called him to meet with Ajay Gupta and “help them”.

Revealing how events had unfolded during his time in office, Chikane recalled that he spoke to Maseko - who conveyed his fears about being asked by Zuma to meet with the Guptas - in 2010. Maseko was concerned that he would be asked to do something irregular.

Chikane said he was surprised by Maseko’s concerns and advised him to do as Zuma had requested or else he would be charged with insubordination.

“I said to him if the president asks you to meet a person, you can’t not meet that person if there is no prima facie case against them.”

Chikane said Maseko soon afterwards informed him about what had transpired at the meeting.

He detailed how he had been asked to do something and would be removed as DG if he failed to comply.

“He said they asked him to do something irregular and was given an ultimatum that he will not be DG by Wednesday.

“Indeed, on Thursday, he called me to say he was no longer DG of GCIS. I said we now have enough evidence. This is the time you should take it on,” Chikane said.

Testifying in July, Zuma denied that he had fired Maseko because he would not assist the Gupta family.

He stated that there may have been an issue between the former minister in the presidency Collins Chabane and Maseko which led to his (Maseko’s) removal.

Maseko was later relegated to the department of public administration.

Chikane said it was often costly for people to take a stand and it cost their careers, including his.

He further pointed out that he had met the Guptas at government events and had not thought much of the family. He said after Maseko’s revelations he became concerned.

The commission resumes on Wednesday.

IOL