Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heads the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. Picture: Karen Sandison / African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former minister of Public Enterprises Malusi Gigaba pushed hard for Gupta-linked The New Age to be funded by Eskom in a multi-million rand sponsorship deal, the Zondo commission heard. 

Eskom’s acting general manager for marketing and branding Paul Pretorius told the inquiry that he was forced into signing off on Eskom sponsoring The New Age (TNA) business breakfasts. 

Eskom signed a contract that assured the Gupta company that it would sponsor four of its business breakfasts which costed the struggling power utility R1 million per session. The breakfasts were broadcasted on the SABC’s Morning Live programme. The events showcased discussions with government officials. 

Through the commission, it has been revealed that many of these breakfasts were funded using government money. Various state-owned enterprises including Transnet and Eskom funded the events. TNA spent little to no money on sessions. 

Pretorius said his division was approached by TNA to fund the breakfasts in 2012 and to also spend on advertising in the newspaper. He declined the offer immediately because the deal involved a lot of money and little assurance of value for Eskom. 

He said his other concern was the TNA was not registered with the ABC. 

Pretorius told the commission that after rejecting the offer he thought the matter was done but he was later instructed by his senior Chose Choeu, Eskom’s former divisional executive for corporate affairs, that he had to sign the deal with TNA. Choeu was not interested in hearing about Pretorius’ objections and insisted that the instructions had come straight from the minister (former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba). 

"He said Pieter this is an instruction, this comes from the minister (Malusi Gigaba). He said Brian Dammas said you will do this. That was implied that it came from the top. Some of the minister's staff were included in emails about TNA,” Pretorius said. 

Eskom entered into the contract with TNA in 2012. Eskom paid R7.1 million for the business breakfasts and R4 million for advertising in TNA. 

Gigaba submitted a responding affidavit to the commission where he denies ever interfering and encouraging Eskom employees to sponsor TNA.  Pretorius said he disagrees with Gigaba’s version as the former minister had often interfered in matters at the power utility. 

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