Public Enterprises deputy minister Ben Martins has denied attending a meeting with the Guptas to discuss Brian Molefe’s court case. But he could not say where he was on July 29, the day he allegedly attended the meeting with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma among others.
“I would have to check my diary where I was on whatever date was articulated, I have not checked my diary or asked any staff where I was that day,” he told journalists at a brief press conference in Parliament this morning. Martins added that he was hoping to get a chance to appear before the public enterprises portfolio committee’s inquiry into issues of governance at Eskom to answer the committee’s questions.
Suspended legal head of Eskom, Suzanne Daniels, told the ongoing parliamentary inquiry yesterday that she was invited to a meeting in Melrose Arch by Gupta associate Salim Essa, and when they arrived at the meeting venue, there were four other people there – Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Martins and “a Chinese lady whose name I could not remember”. Daniels said at the meeting, the discussion was around the court process of Brian Molefe’s case with Gupta allegedly asking about preparations for Molefe’s case. The court matter related to Molefe’s application to the Labour Court to overturn Eskom’s decision to rescind his reappointment as Eskom chief executive.
Molefe resigned from Eskom in November 2016. On February 23 he was sworn in as a member of Parliament. Molefe served in Parliament for the full duration of March and April‚ before returning to Eskom on May 15, only to have that position rescinded a couple of weeks later.
Martins suggested that Daniels had an axe to grind as she is suspended from Eskom and that he had rebuked her in a meeting about Molefe’s controversial pension payout.
“The only issue I can think of as to why she would seek to put me in a meeting where I was not goes back to my interaction with her with regards to the Brian Molefe matter … the questions that I posed to her with regards to her responsibilities as the company secretary and legal adviser to Eskom”.
Martins could only recall three or four interactions with Daniels and these were ministry meetings to discuss the Molefe pension payout and were also attended by public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, director-general Richard Seleke and erstwhile Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane. Daniels would accompany Ngubane in her capacity as Eskom’s company secretary and legal adviser.
“In the course of those discussions I asked pertinent questions. I didn’t get the sense that the minister was getting a full report in regard to the Brian Molefe matter. I said to her [Daniels] as the company secretary and legal adviser, she had a responsibility to give full disclosure of everything that you know. That’s the context in which I have met her,” explained Martins.
“The meeting alleged, the phantom coffee tea party meeting, I have not been party to such a meeting.”
Martins labelled Daniels “a liar”. This was in response to a question whether Daniels revelations were lies.
The deputy minister, who has held a number of positions in President Jacob Zuma’s executive over the past few years – sometimes as a deputy minister and in some as a full minister, confirmed meetings with the Gupta brothers.
The first time was around 2013 when he attended an Indian food fair organised by the family at their Saxonwold home. “The public was invited there and an array of people went to that fair. I went to that fair, I interacted with them and everybody else who was there.”
He also met the brothers to talk shop; once at the now cancelled TNA breakfasts, where the middle brother spoke to him about how the event would proceed, and invited Tony Gupta and Lucky Montana to his government-sponsored house to discuss a matter relevant to transport.
“There was an issue with regard to the renewal of the board and Lucky Montana and Sifiso Buthelezi wrote me a letter with regards to that matter saying they believe that there was influence from Guptas to have them removed as board chair and chief executive of Prasa.”
Martins said he had invited both parties to his home to discuss the matter and it was resolved with both Buthelezi and Montana remaining in their positions.