Themba Maseko. Picture: MASI LOSI
Themba Maseko. Picture: MASI LOSI

Former government spokesperson Themba Maseko said he was threatened by the Guptas that if he did not do as they asked, he would be “dealt with”.

Maseko told the state capture inquiry that he felt the way the controversial family approached him was inappropriate and uncalled for.

“Firstly making demands on me as a public official … making demands summoning me to the house and threatening that if I do not do what they’re asking of me, I will be dealt with,” he said.

“I felt that to be inappropriate … They were asking me to break the laws of the land.”

Maseko is the fourth witness to testify at the state capture inquiry headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo. He and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor have both directly linked former president Jacob Zuma to acts amounting to state capture.

This is not the first time the Guptas have been accused of threatening those who did not bend to their will.

During his testimony, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas alleged that Ajay Gupta had threatened to kill him if he spoke out about a meeting where he was offered a bribe and the job of finance minister.

Maseko, when he was head of the Government Communication and Information Systems (GCIS), was allegedly called by Zuma ahead of a meeting he was to have with the Guptas in 2010 who told him and told to help them. Maseko told the commission about how Ajay Gupta had called him in 2010 and asked to meet him to discuss a new project which he and his company were launching, and indicated that they needed government support. These were The New Age newspaper and ANN7 TV channel.

Maseko said he was reluctant at first to meet him because of rumours he had heard.

“The way the Gupta family was dealing with government officials was very untoward. They were using their connections [and] influence with senior politicians in government to extract as much many contracts as possible from government and state-owned enterprises.”

He said he had reservations when he heard they now wanted to enter the media space. However, in the end Maseko agreed to meet Ajay Gupta at the family’s Saxonwold compound.

Maseko also told the commission that he had been contacted by the Hawks in April 2018 requesting a meeting because they were investigating the matter involving the Guptas and GCIS.

He said the Hawks informed him that they were looking at possibly charging Ajay Gupta and Zuma.

However, subsequent to the raid on the Saxonwold compound this year, Maseko said the Hawks came back to him and informed him they were no longer going to follow through with the matter.

After this, Maseko found himself in the middle of another investigation after the Hawks contacted him again and told him they were investigating a tender which was given out in 2005 when he was a director general in the department of public works.

Evidence leader Vincent Maseko said there appeared to be a pattern of behaviour in the Hawks, something the commission would deal with.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za