Zuma had Guptas’ backs — Maseko
Former government spokesperson tells state capture inquiry the former president ensured that ministers did the family’s bidding
Cabinet ministers who refused to do the Guptas’ bidding were dealt with by former president Jacob Zuma, the state capture inquiry heard on Thursday.
Former government spokesperson and Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) CEO Themba Maseko told the commission Ajay Gupta had warned him that if ministers did not co-operate with the family, Zuma would sort them out and they would be summoned to Saxonwold.
Maseko said Gupta boasted about the frequency of family meetings with Zuma, who apparently went to their house for dinner once a week.
A study by the SA Institute of Race Relations (IRR), published in August 2017, found that Zuma had reshuffled his cabinet 10 times since taking office in May 2009. Directors-general on average kept their jobs for only 22 months.
High-profile dismissals included the late-night firing of the finance minister, Nhlanhla Nene, in December 2015, which rattled markets and mobilised a major pushback from the private sector, civil society and sections of the ANC opposed to Zuma’s presidency.
Maseko alleged that he himself had been summoned to the Guptas’ Saxonwold compound in 2010 to discuss how the GCIS could help the family’s media entities, which at the time had not yet been launched.
On his way to the meeting, Maseko said he was called by Zuma, who told him to help the Guptas. The GCIS had a R600m budget the Guptas wanted spent on advertising in their The New Age newspaper.
Maseko said he told Ajay Gupta that if he wanted to do business with the individual departments, he had to speak to them individually.
But the Gupta brother insisted “this is how things are going to work”, and instructed Maseko to tell all government departments and ministers to transfer their communication budgets to the GCIS.
Gupta allegedly told Maseko that his “only job is to make sure the money comes to me and The New Age newspaper”. Maseko said he refused the request and felt Gupta had instructed him to act in an illegal manner.
Maseko was the fourth witness at the commission.
He and former ANC MP Vytjie Mentor have both directly implicated Zuma in the state capture project.
Maseko is also the third witness to give evidence about how the Guptas had control over the executive and Zuma.
Maseko told the commission about how Zuma had him removed from his post at GCIS after he refused to do the Guptas’ bidding.
Mzwanele Manyi, who has been a staunch supporter of Zuma and was also a Gupta associate, was appointed to replace Maseko as the government spokesperson.
In 2017, Manyi bought the Guptas’ media entities, but since then The New Age newspaper has been put under provisional liquidation and the ANN7 news channel no longer airs on TV.
Maseko, who was redeployed to the department of public service & administration, only remained in this job as director-general for three months. He left the government in July 2011.