The Free State under former premier Ace Magashule has emerged as the biggest government backer of Gupta family businesses Infinity and The New Age.
It has been established that the province splashed a total of R79.3 million on advertising and business breakfast events.
Giving testimony yesterday before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, National Treasury’s financial expert Jan Gilliland gave a breakdown of how much it cost the taxpayer to fund the two media houses, whose tentacles had spread within national, provincial, and local government.
Breaking it down – out of an overall total of R248 million government paid the Guptas – Free State spent the highest, followed by KwaZulu Natal at R24.8 million, North West (R22.7 million), Northern Cape (R16.1 million), Mpumalanga (R5.2 million), Gauteng (R5.2 million), Eastern Cape (R3.4 million), and Limpopo (R554 226).
Out of the R113 million spent by eight provinces, Magashule’s office paid R53 million. This is nearly the budget of Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) at R55 million. The R55 million spent by GCIS is currently under investigation by the Hawks.
In drawing commission chairperson Raymond Zondo to government’s spending trend on the Gupta businesses, evidence leader senior counsel Isaac Maleka said while it would have been attractive to advertise on the ANN7 TV channel – owned by Infinity – much more money was spent on The New Age and business breakfasts.
These business breakfasts were a joint venture with the SABC and usually addressed by the president, Cabinet ministers and premiers, among others.
Looking at the Gupta banking transactions, the commission also heard that the family’s media empire made use of 11 different bank accounts – four of which were duplicated and listed under TNA Media, The New Age Media, The New Age Newspaper, and TNA Media (Pty) Limited.
Gilliland could not explain why the Gupta entities used different accounts and why there was a sudden increase in payments of R51.1 million made between 2013 and 2014 – a matter which will come up when former GCIS chief executing Mzwanele Manyi takes the stand.
Deputy Chief Justice Zondo is this week expected to rule on an application by Ajay and Rajesh Gupta for leave to cross-examine witnesses.