Maseko tells Zondo: Former DGs have info on Gupta dealings

Former GCIS head Themba Maseko. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Former GCIS head Themba Maseko. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

On Wednesday, former head of Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS) Themba Maseko assured Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo a number of his “comrades” have information relevant to the commission of inquiry into state capture.

Maseko made this declaration to Zondo — the commission’s head — in reference to a 2016 memorandum which was signed by a group of 27 former directors general appealing for an inquiry into allegations of state capture. Maseko called the other signatories his “comrades”, saying they are close to each other.

In his testimony, Maseko is expected to give details regarding his previous allegation that he had received a phone call from former president Jacob 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. The nature of this assistance is as yet unknown.

While she was compiling the ‘State of Capture’ report,  former public protector Thuli Madonsela interviewed Maseko and he is the only witness thus far who has implicated Zuma directly.

In the interview with Madonsela, Maseko said Ajay Gupta had threatened to have him “sorted out” should he not co-operate with his demands. The Gupta patriarch had allegedly told Maseko he could have him replaced with someone who would co-operate.

At the beginning of his testimony on Wednesday, Advocate Vincent Maleka turned to the memorandum, which was released to the public on May 16 2016. Amongst the document’s attestants is Maseko himself, Reverend Frank Chikane, Barry Gilder, Vusi Pikoli, Sipho Pityana and Roger Jardine.

“As former DGs we are concerned about reports that public officials, including heads of state-owned entities, are being pressurised by private interests to wilfully break procurement rules and the rules pertaining to transparent, fair and competency-based appointments,” the memorandum reads. In particular, we express concern at recent revelations of alleged ‘state capture’ by the Gupta family …”

The memorandum was sent to a number of ministers, including then finance minister Pravin Gordhan, and the Presidency.

Maseko told the commission that prior to compiling the document, he had met with the ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe to discuss his own allegations. Maseko said he cannot recall the date of this meeting because he failed to record it in his diaries, surmising that his meeting with Mantashe was in secret.

Maleka pointed out that a section of the memorandum is titled “Call for action”.

“We believe that post-1994 state was built through the sweat and blood of thousands of South Africans, and many paid the ultimate price. Remaining silent amounts to betraying the trust bestowed upon all South Africans by the millions who fought for democracy and the demise of apartheid,” reads the memorandum.

Maseko told the commission that many did not come forward at the time because he believes there was a fear of reprisal. He remarked that the current commission has faced a similar challenge, a sentiment expressed by Zondo on the first day of the inquiry last Monday.

“Unfortunately we found ourselves in the situation that you, as chairperson, find yourself in,” Maseko said.

Maseko said his view is that many of those former directors general were at the time willing to come forward, but because there was no action at the time — and no commission of inquiry — “the issue just faded away”.

He said, however, that the political climate has now changed.

Zondo referred to the directors generals who were signatories to the memorandum and said the commission’s legal team would work on contacting them.

Maseko joked that he may lose some friends in the process.

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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