President Jacob Zuma File picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Johannesburg - Gupta family patriarch Ajay Gupta boasted about frequent meetings the family held with former president Jacob Zuma at their Saxonwold compound, where Zuma would have dinner at least once a week, former government spokesman Themba Maseko testified on Thursday.

Gupta had called him numerous times to a meeting at their Saxonwold home in 2010. The family's The New Age newspaper was about to be launched at the end of that year, and Ajay needed the R600 million government advertising budget to be channelled to the family newspaper, Maseko told the commission of inquiry into state capture.

The former government spin doctor said he arrived at the Saxonwold mansion and found Ajay and Atul inside. Atul did not greet him, and just mentioned something to Ajay before leaving the room. Ajay told him about the family plans to launch a newspaper and that they wanted a relationship with government departments.

''There were not too many pleasantry exchanges. Ajay talked about the family newspaper, and that the ANC had planned to launch its own paper...but we know the ANC talks forever about things, these ones do things. He told me he wanted the R600 million to be spent on The New Age advertising,'' Maseko said.

''I was surprised he knew about the budget, which is not a public matter. No private citizen knew about that budget. He said I needed to go to individual departments and request ministers that money be sent to GCIS, and my job would be to make sure the money reaches The New Age.''

Maseko said he refused, and told Ajay: ''Unfortunately, that is not how things work. These are my leaders [ministers]. I cannot approach them and talk like that. Ajay said ''no, this is how the system works now. If there is a problem, I will tell him [Zuma] and he sorts them out''.

''He said he had regular meetings with the president and many ministers are summoned to Saxonwold. He told me the former president came for dinner at least once a week...he was trying to show me his influence on the highest office in the country.''

African News Agency/ANA