Former president Jacob Zuma ordered the abrupt removal of Themba Maseko, Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) chief executive officer, eight years ago, allegedly because Maseko refused to co-operate with the Gupta brothers, who wanted to use public money to fund The New Age newspaper venture.
In his testimony yesterday before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, Maseko told of a phone call he received from Tony Gupta while driving to watch the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, which spelled a death knell to his illustrious government career of 17 years.
“While driving, I received a call from a gentleman with a deep Indian accent requesting a meeting the following Monday at 8am, to discuss government advertising. He said he was in the process of setting up the newspaper – The New Age.
“I immediately assumed it was Tony Gupta, because I was told it was his responsibility to co-ordinate that project. I told him my diary was packed and the appointment had to be done procedurally by calling my office on Monday,” Maseko said.
He said by then he knew how the Guptas operated and wanted “things to be done procedurally”.
“He then told me that the launch of the publication (The New Age) was imminent and they needed adverts to be placed urgently,” recalled Maseko.
What followed was a call from Tony’s brother Ajay, who said Maseko was “being difficult with my people”.
“He said the meeting would have be moved forward to Saturday at the Saxonwold family compound.
“Ajay said because I was being difficult, he would ensure I get dealt with by my seniors who will sort me out, and I would have to be replaced in my job.”
Maseko said he assumed that “seniors” was a reference to the late minister in the presidency Collins Chabane and Zuma.
At the time, government department heads were raising concerns with Maseko “about receiving calls from a certain Tony Gupta demanding they advertise in his publication, saying he had spoken to me”.
“I told them I gave no such authorisation,” said Maseko.