Eskom official links Gigaba to Gupta 'business breakfasts' deal

Minister allegedly instructed official to sponsor these to tune of R1m per session

Eskom official links Gigaba to Gupta 'business breakfasts' deal

29 October 2019

Former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba had allegedly given Eskom officials instructions to sponsor The New Age newspaper's business breakfasts to the tune of R1m per session, the Zondo commission has heard.

Pieter Pretorius, who is the acting general manager for strategic marketing and branding at Eskom, told the Zondo commission that he had a meeting with officials from The New Age newspaper who wanted the power utility to sponsor their business breakfasts.

"I declined it immediately," Pretorius told commission chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday, adding that the newspaper was not accredited with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Pretorius said he did indicate that the power utility would consider advertising in the newspaper which was owned by the Gupta family.

Pretorius said that, after he turned The New Age representatives down, they did not give up.

He said he was invited to another meeting with former Oakbay Investment CEO Nazeem Howa, who was accompanied by someone else and Eskom senior official Chose Choeu.

Pretorius said, in that meeting, he had expressed his concerns about sponsoring the paper, and that Howa then asked him to leave the meeting.

He was later informed by Choeu that he needed to close the deal because it was an instruction from the minister.

"He said to me, 'Pieter, it is a instruction, it comes from the minister. [Former Eskom CEO] Brian Dames had told us that you will do this'," Pretorius testified.

But in an affidavit submitted to the commission, Gigaba denied giving anyone instructions to enter into the contract with the newspaper.

Evidence leader advocate Michael Mbikiwa read parts of Gigaba's statement, quoting him as saying: "I deny I ever gave such instructions."

However, Pretorius disputed Gigaba’s statement, insisting that the former minister had "interfered with the operations of the business on many occasions", especially during load shedding.

"There would be no possible reasons for Mr Dames or Mr Choeu to force me to go into a contract, other than an instruction from someone higher up," he said.

Pretorius said there had been a lot of interference from the department of public enterprises since load shedding started in January 2008.

The hearing continues.