Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng took former CEO of the broadcaster Lulama Mokhobo to a “congratulatory meeting” with the Gupta brothers, Duduzane Zuma and Tshepiso Magashule, son of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule.
Makhobo on Wednesday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that this happened within a week of her appointment at the SABC in February 2012.
Makhobo said she found it “quite strange” when Hlaudi came to her office on the said day and requested to “quickly” take her to the “congratulatory meeting” without giving the destination, which was the offices of the Guptas’ Sahara Computers.
At the offices, cellphones were taken and batteries removed and Makhobo was led to a dining area where she met people she told the commission she thought were Ajay and Atul Gupta as well as former president Jacob Zuma’s son and the now ANC secretary-general’s son.
Makhobo said once she was congratulated on her appointment she was promptly told that “they” wanted to play a role in the SABC’s future on its DTT (digital terrestrial TV) platforms because they wanted to create a news channel.
She said her response was that she was of the view that it would not be easy to guarantee that “they” could access the DTT platform, as processes would have to be followed.
Makhobo said she did not stay long at the offices.
She told the commission she viewed the incident as “lobbying of sorts” so the Guptas and their associates could access the SABC’s platforms.
“I found it a little bit strange that such a proposition could be put to me but I pushed them aside mentally as another form of lobbying,” Makhobo said.
The chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, said it “sounds strange” that she had not interrogated Motsoeneng on the destination and location of the “congratulatory meeting”, to which Makhobo responded the former COO had been “persuasive”.
Makhobo said a car she assumed was owned by the Guptas had taken her and Motsoeneng from the SABC’s offices to the Guptas’ Sahara Computers.
She added that as Motsoeneng asked to take her to the meeting she did not think there was any real harm and “had no reason at the time to be suspicious of” the then COO because he was a trusted and well-loved member of the board and the executive of the SABC.
Makhobo told the commission that in the early 2000s she had met one of the Gupta brothers, whom she thought was Atul, at the inaugural Brics meeting in India where she was part of then president Thabo Mbeki’s delegation.