Let a court test claims of Gupta corruption, Ben Martins insists
The deputy minister of public enterprises maintains he did not participate in any act of state capture
Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins says allegations of state capture against the Gupta family should be ventilated in a court of law.
Martins said this to Business Day on Wednesday shortly after appearing at the state-capture hearing of the portfolio committee on public enterprises. On Tuesday, former Passenger Rail Agency of SA (Prasa) group CEO Lucky Montana told the inquiry he was introduced to the Guptas by Martins.
Montana criticised Martins for distancing himself from the Guptas at his expense.
Martins insisted, however, that he had not been involved in corrupt activities. “He who alleges must prove [the allegations]. In regard to the family, they must be charged, and a court of law will decide whether they are corrupt or not or if their business practices have been corrupt,” said Martins.
He conceded he had met members of the Gupta family with President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, saying he had the right to freedom of association. Martins said saw nothing wrong with the meeting as the Guptas had not been found guilty.
While Montana slammed the Guptas on Tuesday as arrogant and entitled, Martins had little negative to say about the politically connected family.
Most of Martins’s answers to questions from the committee related to his time as minister of transport in 2012.
“There was never criminal intent on my part or intention to abuse my position for personal gain. I did not instruct anyone to act illegally or carry out corrupt activities — not me or any member of my family received a tender improperly,” said Martins.
He said he met with the Guptas in informal settings, including at his home and at their home in Saxonwold.
Martins saw nothing untoward about meeting them with Duduzane Zuma.
The Guptas called on Martins in 2012 to ask for a “welcoming committee” to greet the family’s guests landing at OR Tambo International Airport.
Martins said he refused to grant the request and they subsequently landed at Waterkloof Air Force Base in Pretoria.
DA committee member Natasha Mazzone was outraged that the Guptas assumed they had control over Martins.
“If you meet with someone interested in a tender, it should be in a neutral office environment where correspondence is recorded,” said Mazzone.
Martins said that when he arranged for Tony Gupta to meet Montana, he did so because Gupta had told him he suspected the Prasa locomotive tender had been awarded improperly.
Martins said he arranged for Gupta to air his grievances and for Montana to respond.