Former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng wanted to “capture” the controversial Gupta family, the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
During his appearance before the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — Motsoeneng said he saw the engagements with the Gupta family as “an opportunity to capture them”.
“In my view, I was trying to capture the private sector,” he added.
Motsoeneng was responding to the allegation by the SABC’s former group chief executive Lulama Mokhobo, who told the commission last week that the then acting chief operating officer took her to a meeting with Ajay and Atul Gupta.
“After I was appointed it, it was something quite strange … Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who was acting COO, came to my office and said ‘I have to take you somewhere very quickly’ and he would not tell me where it was. It was all very hush, hush and we arrived at this massive house and I saw on the wall Sahara Computers and he said well we are here because these people want to congratulate you,” Mokhobo told the commission.
“So I went in together with Hlaudi. I do recall that my phone and everybody else’s phone was taken and the battery was removed and we went into a dining room where the people who were present proceeded to congratulate me.”
Mokhobo was appointed as the first woman CEO of the SABC in 2012, but resigned from the position in February 2014.
Mokhobo said she viewed the meeting as “a lobbying of sorts for them to be afforded an opportunity on SABC platforms at that time and — like I said — I did not go in prepared because I did not know what this was about”.
“There was a bit of food and they congratulated me and promptly told me that they would have liked to play a role in SABC’s DDT [digital terrestrial television] future because they were interested in creating a news channel and that they would hope that I would allow them or enable them to get access to a channel,” Mokhobo said.
“And at that point I said to them: ‘Look I do not believe that it would be easy to just give anybody a channel’.”
Motsoeneng did not deny that the meeting happened, instead conceding that he had met the Guptas at their Saxonwold home too many times to count.
”Yes chair, we enjoyed curry there me and Ms Lulama, it was part of the hand over, I don’t know why people are making a big issue about that now … Chairperson, I went there more than I can count … I went there several times chairperson. And I enjoy curry, I can’t lie,” Motsoeneng said on Tuesday.
He did, however, refute Mokhobo’s allegation that she was caught unawares by the meeting. “She knew where we were going,” Motsoeneng said, explaining he had discussed a possible meeting with the Guptas to Mokhobo prior to that day.
“The previous day I told her that they want to see [us].”
Despite having met with the Guptas several times, Motsoeneng said he did not have a friendship with the family.