The controversial Gupta family’s inappropriate demands on former government spokesperson Themba Maseko to channel government’s advertising spend to their newspaper, The New Age, bordered on breaking the laws of the country, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard today.
Maseko was CEO of government communication and information system (GCIS) at the time between 2008 and 2011.
He said he had told the former public protector Thuli Madonsela, who was investigating state capture allegations from 2016, that the approach and the manner in which the fugitive family sought to put pressure on him to carry out their instructions was “inappropriate, uncalled for and irregular”.
“I sought to communicate my view at the time, and that view remains as we speak. The approach by the Gupta family was inappropriate in various respects. Firstly, by making demands on me as a public official – the GCIS was part of the Presidency at the time – summoning me as a Presidency official to their house and threatening me that if I do not do what they asked of me I would be dealt with,” he said.
“The use of threats against me amounted to bullying, in an attempt to force me to break procurement procedures…I refused to cooperate. I found that to be inappropriate, irregular and uncalled for. They were in a sense, asking me to break the laws of the land, because of the demands they were placing on me.”
He said their inappropriate approach was contrary to section 217 of the constitution and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which he said were both “sacrosanct” legislative instruments in the South African public service.
“The two pieces of legislation are sacrosanct in that they define a manner in which public resources must be managed and spent. They talk to principles of fairness, openness, effective management and not spending public money for the benefit of an individual or a family. The approach by the Gupta family was contrary to those principles,” Maseko said.
Maseko first came out publicly about undue influence by the Guptas when he alleged that he became under pressure to spend advertising budget on the Gupta’s newspaper back when it was being established in 2010.
Maseko alleged that he received numerous phone calls from the Guptas to come to their Saxonwold compound for a meeting. On the day he finally agreed to meet the Guptas, he alleged that former president Jacob Zuma called him and ordered him “to help” the Gupta family.
When he seemingly took his time with the issue, Ajay Gupta called him and threatened to “sort him out”. It was also alleged that Gupta said: “… tell us where the money is and tell departments to give you money; if they refuse we will deal with them. If you have a problem with any department, we will summon ministers here.”
Maseko was then replaced with Zuma loyalist Mzwanele Manyi in 2011. He said he was yet to hear from the Hawks after opening criminal cases against Ajay Gupta and Zuma.
His testimony continues tomorrow.
– African News Agency (ANA)