‘Guptas ordered me to give them state’s R600m’
Ajay Gupta wanted the Government Communication Information System (GCIS) to transfer R600m to the Guptas as capital to start their media company, says the state entity’s former CE.
During an interview on Wednesday with Radio 702’s Bongani Bingwa, former GCIS CE Themba Maseko described meeting Gupta in December 2010.
"So what he was basically telling me was that I must transfer the whole advertising budget to his company so that they can actually have the capital to start running the business‚" Maseko said.
"He made it very clear to me that he wasn’t asking me. He was telling me that I need to transfer the budget."
The media company the Guptas were setting up was what later became The New Age newspaper and ANN7 (African News Network 7).
Maseko said Gupta knew the government advertising budget was R600m. "He said I must make sure that that budget is transferred to his benefit."
Maseko said he told Gupta that protocol dictated there must be a bidding process. He added that the budget was not allocated to GCIS‚ but various departments.
"Different departments then come to us to do media placing for them and we then get the money from the departments to pay the media companies‚" Maseko said.
"He said to me‚ quite clearly‚ if there was any department that was resisting to do the transfer‚ I must come back to him‚ report to him and he has the authority to summon any minister to come to his house."
Maseko said the meeting ended after he told Gupta he was not interested.
"I was very clear in my mind that I was not going to be instructed by any person‚ be they a Gupta or anybody‚ to break rules."
Gupta contacted Maseko shortly before the launch of The New Age to arrange a meeting. Maseko declined the invitation.
"At the end of that conversation‚ he then said to me he was going to talk to my superiors to make sure that they dealt with me… It really made my life difficult as head of GCIS."
Maseko was removed two months later and replaced by the current owner of The New Age and ANN7‚ Mzwanele Manyi.