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Martins denies Eskom’s Susan Daniels version of events

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Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins says suspended Eskom Head of Legal Services Susan Daniels’ version of events related to the meeting with Ajay Gupta are not consistent.

He has, however, confirmed meeting with former Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa Chief Executive Officer Lucky Montana, the Guptas and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane.

The main reason for Martins to appear before Parliament’s inquiry into State Capture was to respond to Daniel’s claims that he was present at a meeting with one of the Gupta brothers and another Gupta associate in July last year.

Martins says he was at a funeral of the Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa and later attended an ANC Lekgotla in Irene.

“The official Department of Public Enterprises Minister Diary reveals that on the 29 July 2017, I had attended the funeral services of Mr Ronny Mamoepa at the St Albans Cathedral in Pretoria. I attended the funeral service at approximately 1:30 PM. I departed from the St George’s Hotel in Irene with a member of the VIP protection service unit to attend the African National Congress National Executive Committee Lekgotla which was scheduled at 2PM. Upon my arrival at the St George’s Hotel in the company of the VIP protection services, I was issued with a Deputy Ministers accreditation card. After registering I attended the economic transformation commission chaired by Enoch Gondowana.”

He, however, confirmed that Lucky Montana had complained to him about how another Gupta brother allegedly used his, Montana and President Jacob Zuma’s names to allegedly manipulate locomotive manufacturers in 2012.

Montana made the claims in the inquiry.

Matins was Transport Minister at the time.

“In 2012 Mr Montana went to Germany to attend an Ino Trans Rail Roadshow. I received a call from Mr Montana requesting a meeting. He advised me that he was shocked that he had learnt that the Gupta brother had told the rolling stock manufacturers that they worked for President Zuma, myself and himself. Upon his return from Germany, such a meeting took place in all fairness and sincerity, I do not remember every detail of the discussion but I do remember in particular Mr Montana raised the matter of misrepresentation sharply. I also rebuked Mr Tony Gupta for abusing the name of the President, myself and that of Mr Montana. The meeting ended acrimoniously.”

However, he has denied Montana’s claim on how Tony Gupta reacted after he was reprimanded by Montana for name dropping. He was asked by Evidence Leader Nthuthuzelo Vanara to respond to Montana’s claim. He told the inquiry that the first time he met with the Guptas was when he attended an SABC Breakfast meeting.

He says he also met the Guptas when he attended a food fair that was attended by some Ministers and members of the public. Martins says Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davis was also in attendance.

The EFF’s Marshall Dlamini asked: “Your request to visit there – did you visit in your personal capacity or as a minister, the invitation?

Martins answered: “The invitation said you are welcome to a food fair to sample different types of  Indian food and I attended there. I didn’t say I am coming here as a Minister, I just went.”

In his testimony Martins revealed that he turned down a request by one of the Gupta brothers for their plane to land at OR Tambo Airport for a wedding ceremony.

The DA’s Natasha Mazonne reacted fiercely to the revelation. “Upon you turning them down and then you found out about the Waterkloof airbase landing, did you question that and do you know who authorised it, given that  you didn’t authorise anything at OR Tambo?

Martins answered: “I think I did try to explain this earlier. The remit of the authority of the Department of Transport is for airports within the country and there are certain airports that are privately run with the necessary regulations. In terms of Waterkloof that falls under the Department of Defence. The Minister of Transport does not have authority over Waterkloof Airport.”

During the inquiry, Martins also raised his concern that parliamentary inquiries should not be used for what he calls, “organised character assassination” of individuals.

Martins says those who have evidence of any wrongdoing or corruption against him should approach the law enforcement agencies.

“It is my belief that no one should be allowed to use the parliamentary inquiry as a platform to settle personal vendettas or as a vehicle for organised character assassination. If there is anyone who has proof of me having been party to corruption or of me having being party to the commission of a crime, they have the moral and civil duty to report me to the police and other relevant law enforcement authorities. A fundamental principle of South African law is that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

In her closing remarks, Committee Chairperson Zukisa Rantho took the opportunity to register her disappointment for an earlier comment made by Martins that the Committee was acting like a kangaroo court.

“When you said the work of this committee works as a kangaroo court, it was very much insulting and it almost disturbed us as a committee because we are a committee that you belong to, you are a Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises. A committee constituted in Parliament and a constitutional body. Our terms of reference Deputy Minister has been very clear, when we took the decision of taking the inquiry forward we had your blessing. You assured us you will be behind us in this process, but in our dismay and disappointment you uttered some words in public instead of coming to us, because we are your children we work with you and we want to work with you going forward.”

The next witness expected to testify in the inquiry is one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay.

Rantho earlier said the Guptas will only testify after the State of the Nation Address.

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