Gupta phone call: Zuma doesn't remember instructing Maseko to help Guptas

2019-07-15 17:02
Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)

Former president Jacob Zuma appears before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Johannesburg. (Wikus de Wet, AFP)

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Former president Jacob Zuma says he cannot recall making a call to former Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) head Themba Maseko giving him instructions to "help" the Gupta family.

"I don't remember. I normally call DGs [director-generals] to discuss a number of issues. I can't remember making this call," Zuma told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday.

Zuma said although he could not remember making the call, he does not dispute that he might have made it.

The former president added it would have been "natural" for the Guptas to find support for their projects.

"Generally, media houses discuss with these departments [GCIS] their relations and what kind of operations they must take," he said.

Read the full transcript of Zuma's opening statement at Zondo

During his testimony before Zondo last year, Maseko detailed how he was fired shortly after refusing to abide by Zuma's instruction to "help" the Guptas.

At the time, Maseko claimed he was fired a month after he refused to meet with them.

He said the Guptas demanded the R600m GCIS budget for media spend, be spent on their now defunct newspaper, The New Age, which went to print for the first time in December 2010.

Maseko told the commission that Zuma had "coincidentally" called him as he was driving to meet the eldest of the Gupta brothers, Ajay, for the first time. He said the call lasted barely 90 seconds.  

READ: Ramatlhodi challenges Zuma: Let’s take a lie detector test because I was never a spy

"My brother, there are these Gupta brothers who need to meet you, who need your help, please do help them," Maseko said Zuma told him in the short telephone call from his official residence of Mahlamba Ndlopfu.

He added Zuma was speaking in isiZulu at the time.

Maseko said it was the first and only time Zuma had ever called him instructing him to meet and help people in the private sector.

Asked whether it would have been improper if Maseko had agreed to give the whole R600m budget to the Guptas, Zuma said: "Absolutely."

He also told the commission he did not want to discuss the conversation Maseko had with the Guptas saying: "[The] Guptas can explain better."

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