A former Eskom official has denied telling his colleague that Malusi Gigaba, in his capacity as public enterprises minister, had given them instructions to sponsor The New Age newspaper’s business breakfasts to the tune of R1m per session.
Eskom’s former divisional executive of corporate affairs, Chose Choeu, who has since retired from the power utility, disputed the colleague’s testimony before the state capture commission of inquiry.
On Tuesday, Pieter Pretorius, who is the acting general manager for strategic marketing and branding at Eskom, told the commission that he had a meeting with officials from The New Age who wanted the power utility to sponsor their business breakfasts, News24 reported.
He said he declined because the newspaper was not accredited with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
But since it was a new entrant, he indicated that the power utility would consider advertising in the newspaper, which was owned by the controversial Gupta family.
Pretorius said he raised his concerns about sponsoring the newspaper with Choeu, who then told him the contract should be concluded.
Pretorius quoted Choeu as saying: “Pieter, it is an instruction, it comes from the minister. [Former Eskom CEO] Brian Dames had told us that you will do this’.”
However, Choeu disputed this on Wednesday. When asked if Pretorius made it up, Choeu said: “Most definitely.”
He said he informed Pretorius that the contract should be concluded with TNA to support the publication and that was an instruction from the CEO.
Choeu also said if Pretorius felt “so strongly” about the sponsorship, he would have his bosses discuss it.
In an affidavit submitted to the commission, which was read out during Pretorius’ testimony on Tuesday, Gigaba denied giving anyone instructions to enter into the contract with the newspaper.
But Pretorius insisted that the former minister “interfered with the operations of the business on many occasions”, especially during load shedding.
“There would be no possible reasons for Mr Dames or Mr Choeu to force me to go into a contract, other than an instruction from someone higher up,” he said.