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Martins reveals that Guptas wanted him to remove Prasa board chair and CEO

Nov 09 2017 11:36
Liesl Peyper

"Cape Town - Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins admitted on Thursday 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 transport-related matters. 

PRAVIN GORDHAN: Why has no-one been punished yet for state capture?
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Ben Martins denies Gupta ‘tea party’ with Eskom legal head

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 former CEO Lucky 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."

READ: Lucky Montana wants to expose Prasa 'mafia' 

Martins said he made a phone call to Tony Gupta, telling him "nobody can tell me to remove 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 on Thursday morning, following allegations that he met suspended Eskom head of legal Suzanne Daniels with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma. 

READ: Martins denies Gupta 'tea party' with Eskom legal head

He has vehemently denied meeting suspended Eskom head of legal Suzanne Daniels with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma in a flat near Melrose Arch in 2017.

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

“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.

READ: Eskom inquiry hears evidence that the Gupta took care of Molefe and Koko 

Daniels: “We went into one of those apartments. As we walked into the lounge area there were four people, of which I was introduced to Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Deputy Minister [of Public enterprises] Ben Martins and a Chinese lady whose name I could not remember,” she said.

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