Johannesburg - The former CEO of the The Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) Themba Maseko has told the state capture inquiry that he was shocked that Ajay Gupta knew that his department spent around R600 million on media advertising for the 2010/2011 financial year.
Maseko was detailing his interactions with Ajay Gupta, who contacted him asking for assistance on a media project the family was planning to launch.
The Gupta family at the time were planning to launch the New Age newspaper and the TV station ANN7, which they finally launched in November 2010.
Maseko, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday, said Ajay Gupta was reluctant to explain what the media project the family needed his assistance with was over the phone, but instead insisted that they meet in person to discuss the matter.
He said there were rumours circulating around the time he was communicating with Ajay Gupta in 2010 that the family was planning on launching a TV station and a newspaper and how they were going out their way to get as many government contracts as possible.
“There were rumours already that the Gupta family was making moves to establish a newspaper and a TV station, secondly that the way the Gupta family was dealing with government officials was very untoward. They were using their connections to influence senior officials in government to get as many contracts as possible from both government and state-owned entities,” said Maseko.
“So when I heard that they were trying to get into the media space I did have some reservations I suspected that they could be doing the same with my function and that’s where my reluctance came about.”
Maseko agreed to meet with Ajay Gupta and the meeting took place around May and July 2010 at the Gupta family’s residence in Saxonworld. Advocate Vincent Maleka, who is leading Maseko’s evidence as part of the commission’s legal team, questioned Maseko on why he did not find it suspicious to have the meeting at the Guptas’ family home.
Maseko answered saying there was no controversy about the Gupta family at the time so it did not seem unusual for him to go there.
“We agreed to meet. My approach was to meet and interact with all the stakeholders in the media space so it would have been difficult for me to refuse to meet them. I thought it was in line with my portfolio that I should give them a hearing. Around the time, the issue of the Guptas was not public knowledge and that’s why I did not see anything wrong with going to their home,” said Maseko.
Maseko will continue his testimony about his meeting with Ajay Gupta on Thursday.
He also told the inquiry how he was led to believe that the Hawks were investigating a state capture case and that a Captain Govender had told him they were close to charging former president Jacob Zuma and Ajay Gupta.
Maseko was later told the case had been closed and would no longer be pursued.
The former head of government communications was the only person to submit a statement to former ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe about his allegations against the Gupta family.
This was after Mantashe had asked ANC members with claims of state capture to send their statements to him as part of the ANC’s inquiry.
Maseko believes the ANC's attempt to investigate claims of state capture was weakened because he was the only one to come forward.
The inquiry is investigating allegations of corruption largely centred around the infamous Gupta family and former president Jacob Zuma.
It has been alleged that the Gupta family used its relationship with Zuma to score business deals with state-owned enterprises. Billions were allegedly paid out to the family in suspicious business deals involving government officials.