Former head of Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) Themba Maseko will testify before the state capture inquiry on Wednesday, the commission’s legal team confirmed.
The judicial commission of inquiry into state capture — headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — had initially scheduled Maseko to appear on Friday, but on Monday evening Maseko suggested that these plans would likely change.
In a tweet, Maseko wrote: “There’s a great possibility that my appearance before the #ZondoCommission may be brought forward to Wednesday 29th. I will know for certain tomorrow. I’m ready.”
— Themba Maseko (@MasekoThembaJ) August 27, 2018
After a lunch break on Tuesday, head of the commission’s legal team, Paul Pretorius SC confirmed that Maseko — who is the only witness likely to implicate former president Jacob Zuma directly — has had his testimony moved up.
Maseko has previously alleged he received a phone call from Zuma in 2010, asking him to aid the Gupta brothers with placing government advertisements in Gupta-owned newspaper, The New Age. Maseko further alleged that Zuma asked him to “help” the Gupta family. Maseko was interviewed by former public protector Thuli Madonsela while compiling the state of capture report.
In the interview Maseko said that Ajay Gupta had threatened to have him “sorted out” should he not co-operate with his demand. The Gupta patriarch had allegedly told Maseko that he could have him replaced with someone who would co-operate.
Maseko was replaced by self-proclaimed Zuma loyalist Mzwanele Manyi in 2011.
In August 2017, a company owned by Manyi forked out R450-million to buy The New Age Media and ANN7 from Gupta-owned firm Oakbay. Manyi had previously remarked that he would cure South Africans of their “Guptaphobia”.
Commenting on Maseko’s departure in 2011, Zuma said that his “efficiency as well as his affable and humble nature saw him cement relations with the media fraternity, thereby greatly improving relations between the media and government in the process. He instilled confidence in government communications and has set a good track record”.Zuma added that Manyi would execute his new duties “diligently and effectively”.
Ajay Gupta’s counsel, Mike Hellens SC, has already confirmed that he will be applying to cross-examine Maseko.
Zuma’s counsel, advocate Muzi Sikhakhane SC, said on Tuesday that the former president has yet to decide whether or not to apply for leave to cross-examine the witnesses who have implicated him in their testimonies. Sikhakhane said that Zuma’s legal team will confirm this on Friday.