Pretoria - Lies, lies and more lies! That sums up a statement from Ajay Gupta’s lawyer who charged, in a letter to Parliament’s inquiry into corruption at Eskom, that his client was nowhere near Melrose Arch in July this year as claimed by suspended Eskom head of legal and compliance, Suzanne Daniels.

Instead Ajay Gupta was 8000km away in eastern India, participating in a Hindu festival where he was giving a speech, providing evidence of his exit stamp on his passport and the flight plan of his private jet.

There is also a YouTube clip taken on July 29, the same day Daniels claimed to have met him alongside Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins, Salim Essa and Duduzane Zuma.

Martins has been subpoenaed to appear before the inquiry, a move he slammed in a statement from his office.

Gupta’s lawyer, Goitse Pilane, did not provide a link to the video, but a screenshot of the middle Gupta brother at the festival.

The letter, alongside another one from Ahmed Gani, also representing Ajay Gupta, stated that the Gupta family had been “wrongly implicated” in malfeasance by witnesses at the Eskom inquiry “through testimony and many documents before you”.

Instead Ajay Gupta offered to testify before the committee, saying that he and his brothers would be available to testify after January15, provided they were given questions from the committee before their appearance.

The inquiry is expected to resume by mid-January.

While the letters were being handed to members of Parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee, the inquiry’s chairperson, Zukiswa Rantho, said she had been informed that there were members of the Hawks inside the Old Assembly chamber who had wanted to get her details.

This she viewed as suspicious and a form of intimidation, telling her colleagues that she was disturbed and could no longer go ahead with chairing the inquiry.

After a 15-minute break, MPs returned and Rantho was replaced in the chair by the chairperson of the committee, Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe.

She said there had been a “misunderstanding” with the Hawks officers who had been at the meeting of Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts, which was probing matters related to corruption at Transnet.

“We want to apologise in the manner the matter (the Hawks' presence) was conveyed to the chairperson (Rantho) of the inquiry.

"It should have been done before the meeting started,” said Mnganga-Gcabashe.

Eskom acting board chairperson Zethemba Khoza told Parliament that the board had been proactive in dealing with corruption.

“As it is now, it is correct that most of the investigations taking place are over companies that are Gupta-related,” said Khoza.

He said several senior executives, including chief financial officer Anoj Singh, had been suspended.

“About three of them, I think five of them, are already on suspension on the basis of the findings of investigations,” Khoza said.

Speaking on the controversial “retirement” of former Eskom chief executive officer Brian Molefe in which he was paid a pension of R30million, Khoza said Molefe had submitted a resignation/retirement letter to the utility’s human resource department and to his office.

“What we know is that he submitted a retirement letter even though he said (in the media) it was a resignation. At our (board) meeting in November 2016, (former chairperson) Dr Ben Ngubane addressed us as if he (Molefe) had resigned,” said Khoza.

He said Molefe’s payout was not justifiable, considering that he had worked at the utility for less than 18 months.

The DA’s Natasha Mazzone asked Khoza, who had previously worked at Telkom, whether he had worked with Gupta-associated businessman Kuben Moodley.

Khoza denied that he had ever been business partners with Moodley, but confirmed that another Gupta associate, Mark Pamensky of Blue Label Communications, had signed an airtime contract with Telkom.

Politics Bureau