According to Gilliland, investigations found that payments were made to 11 separate accounts under the names of Infinity Media and The New Age.
The spokesperson for political party Black First, Land First Lindsay Maasdorp has taken to Twitter to attempt to show that the Guptas should not be on trial for state capture because the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) spent more money on “white media” than with now-defunct Gupta-owned paper The New Age.
Maasdorp’s argument seems to be based on the organisation’s advertising spend. According to him, if the government communications department spent more on advertising in what he terms “white media” organisations such as Naspers, Tiso Blackstar and Independent Media than in The New Age, this demonstrates that allegations of state capture by the Guptas are either untrue or overstated.
“Let’s take ourselves seriously, ilk of Koos Bekker force government to put your pension into Naspers so he can poison you with anti-Gupta propaganda!” Maasdorp exclaimed in his Twitter thread.
According to the statistics cited by Maasdorp, GCIS spent 52% of their advertising in the 2010/2011 period on Naspers as opposed to 0.6% on the New Age. In subsequent years, the amount of money spent on Naspers lessened to 35% in 2011/2012 and then 27% in 2012/2013.
Spending on The New Age, on the other hand, rose sharply from 0.6% in 2010/2011 to 14% in 2011/2012. GCIS spent 10% of their budget on The New Age in 2012/2013.
While Maasdorp sees these figures as a vindication of his argument that the government has supported “white media” more than the Guptas, the New Age was never externally audited and thus their reach can’t be known for sure. It’s possible that GCIS was spending a disproportionate amount on The New Age relative to its reach.
The paper claimed in the past to sell R500 000 copies a month according to a report on Free State radio station OFM.
Maasdorp also used the term “invested,” which some may find misleading as the tweets refer not to money GCIS invested in companies as such but to advertising spending.
The Citizen left messages with Maasdorp in an attempt to obtain comment but these have so far not been returned.
National Treasury accounting officer Jan Gilliland gave evidence at the commission of inquiry into state capture led by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo on Monday alleging that GCIS paid R260 million to Gupta-owned media companies including the New Age between 2011 and 2018.
The OFM report, from 2016, alleged that the Guptas spent more than R2.7 million on the The New Age in the province alone during the first 6 months of 2016.
According to the report, “treasury justifies the expenditure by saying the amount spent on the Gupta paper is so high because this department is carrying the cost for all the other provincial government departments.”
The report also said the New Age was distributed for free at government buildings in the Free State along with the usual “knock and drops.”
According to the report, the Free State government accounted for 12% of the paper’s daily national circulation.
Current ANC secretary general Ace Magashule, seen as an ally of Jacob Zuma, was premier of the province at the time.
GCIS was called in an attempt to verify Maasdorp’s statistics.
A man who answered the phone said he had no idea who at the government communications organisation could help me either verify or dispute Maasdorp’s stats.
When informed that his inability to refer The Citizen to anyone would result in the story coming out without hearing GCIS’ side of the story, he said: “let it come out because we don’t entertain journalists here”.