Martins ad­mits meet­ing Gup­tas, but not with Daniels

The Witness - - NEWS -

“Why did I ac­cept his [Tony Gupta’s] pres­ence? It was not an of­fi­cial meet­ing.” — Min­is­ter Ben Martins

CAPE TOWN — Deputy Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Ben Martins ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day that he had met mem­bers of the Gupta fam­ily on “three or four” oc­ca­sions.

At a me­dia brief­ing held at Par­lia­ment, Martins said one of such in­stances was when Tony Gupta and Lucky Mon­tana, then CEO of the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) came to his gov­ern­ment house in Pre­to­ria to dis­cuss trans­port­re­lated mat­ters.

Martins was asked what le­git­i­macy there was for Tony Gupta to ac­com­pany Mon­tana to his house, see­ing that gov­ern­ment busi­ness was dis­cussed. The deputy min­is­ter then re­vealed that he had re­ceived a let­ter from the Gupta fam­ily, ask­ing him to re­move then Prasa chair­per­son Sfiso Buthelezi and Mon­tana from their po­si­tions.

“Why did I ac­cept his [Tony Gupta’s] pres­ence? It was not an of­fi­cial meet­ing,” Martins said. “There was an is­sue re­gard­ing the chang­ing of the board.”

Martins said he made a phone call to Tony Gupta, telling him “no­body can tell me to re­ move peo­ple un­fairly if they had done noth­ing”.

“I raised the is­sue on a phone call to Tony Gupta about a let­ter I re­ceived. He wanted to re­solve this mat­ter and I in­vited them to my house in Pre­to­ria. Sub­se­quent to that Sfiso Buthelezi re­mained chair­per­son of Prasa. And Lucky Mon­tana re­mained CEO. They were not re­moved.”

Martins also ad­mit­ted to at­tend­ing an “In­dian food fair” at the Gup­tas’ house in Sax­on­wold, which, ac­cord­ing to him, was “open to the pub­lic”.

“I went there in my per­sonal ca­pac­ity and not as a min­is­ter,” he said.

Martins called a me­dia brief­ing yes­ter­day morn­ing, and de­nied al­le­ga­tions that he met sus­pended Eskom head of le­gal Suzanne Daniels with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma in July 2017.

“I am per­plexed by Ms Suzanne Daniels’ tes­ti­mony to the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into Eskom,” he said in a state­ment is­sued ear­lier yes­ter­day.

“She falsely claimed that I had at­tended a tea party in Jo­han­nes­burg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma.

“As the head of Eskom’s le­gal de­part­ment, Ms Daniels should ac­count to Par­lia­ment for what hap­pened un­der her watch rather than seek to use the oc­ca­sion to rein­vent her­self as clue­less ig­no­ra­mus.”

Tes­ti­fy­ing be­fore the Par­lia­ment’s pub­lic en­ter­prises com­mit­tee’s in­quiry into state cap­ture at Eskom on Wed­nes­day, Daniels told MPs how Ajay Gupta and Gupta as­so­ciate Salim Essa on sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions tried to in­flu­ence de­ci­sions re­lated to ex­ec­u­tives at the power util­ity and how she was taken by Essa to meet Ajay Gupta in an apart­ment. She said Martins and Duduzane Zuma were also present.

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