Ben Martins denies Gupta ‘tea party’ with Eskom legal head

Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins has denied meeting suspended Eskom head of legal Suzanne Daniels with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma in a flat near Melrose Arch in 2017.

“I am perplexed by Ms Suzanne Daniels’ testimony to the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“She falsely claimed that I had attended a tea party in Johannesburg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma.

“As the head of Eskom’s legal department, Ms Daniels should account to Parliament for what happened under her watch rather than seek to use the occasion to reinvent herself as clueless ignoramus.”

When ANC MP Pravin Gordhan warned Daniels in Parliament on Wednesday that there would be denials with attacks on her character, she said it would be her word against theirs. She added that the state capture evidence that joins all the dots would prove that her version held water.

Daniels on Wednesday told Parliament about how Ajay Gupta and Gupta-associate Salim Essa on separate occasions tried to influence decisions related to executives at the power utility.

Daniels was testifying before the public enterprises committee’s inquiry into state capture at Eskom.

She caused a stir when she explained how she first met Ajay Gupta, one of the three Gupta brothers, in mid-2017.

Daniels told the committee she had been asked to meet with Essa, a friend and close business associate of the Gupta family, at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on July 29, 2017. She said that, after meeting him at the reception area of the African Pride Hotel, they together walked to a set of nearby apartment blocks.

“We went into one of those apartments. As we walked into the lounge area there were four people, of which I was introduced to Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Deputy Minister [of Public Enterprises] Ben Martins and a Chinese lady whose name I could not remember,” she said.

Daniels said Ajay Gupta was wearing a grey tracksuit, a T-shirt and no shoes. “My view is he looked worse than if he was at a shebeen,” she said. “The purpose of the discussion was around the process of the [former Eskom CEO Brian] Molefe court proceedings. Mr Gupta wanted to know how far they were.”

The court application relates to Molefe’s bid to have the Labour Court overturn Eskom’s decision to rescind his reappointment.

Daniels said she informed Ajay Gupta that Eskom was to meet with a Deputy Judge President to discuss when to set down the matter as the DA, the EFF and trade union Solidarity had joined the application.

She said that Ajay told her that he would speak to someone at the Deputy Judge President’s office to have the hearing take place after December 2017.

Full statement by Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins
I am perplexed by Ms Suzanne Daniels’ testimony to the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom today.

She falsely claimed that I had attended a tea party in Johannesburg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma.

The truth is that I met Ms Daniels several times in her capacity as Eskom Company Secretary, together with the then Chairperson of Eskom Dr Ben Ngubane, Department of Public Enterprises Director-General Richard Seleke and Minister Lynne Brown in Cape Town and Tshwane to discuss the Brian Molefe matter.

I admit to admonishing Ms Daniels for the governance lapses that had taken place under her watch as the Company Secretary and Legal Advisor at Eskom, during the meetings we had with the Minister of Public Enterprises and Dr Ngubane. My collegial constructive criticism was never meant as a personal attack.

As the head of Eskom’s legal department Ms Daniels should account to Parliament for what happened under her watch rather than seek to use the occasion to reinvent herself as clueless ignoramus.

Lameez Omarjee
Lameez Omarjee
Parliamentary reporter at Fin24.com
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