Oakbay Investments – the holding company for the Gupta family’s businesses in South Africa – has vehemently denied allegations claimed by Themba Maseko in today’s Sunday Times newspaper.
In the report Maseko, who is former Government Communications and Information System (GCIS) CEO, claims that the South African president, Jacob Zuma, urged him in 2010 to meet the Gupta brothers at their home in Saxonwold, Johannesburg, and to “help” them.
If true, this would contradict Zuma’s claim in parliament that any government favours – as alleged by Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas, former MP Vytjie Mentor, and others this week – were solicited by the Guptas without his knowledge.
The news came today as the African National Congress (ANC) finished its three-day National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting. During a news conference ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe deflected numerous questions about Zuma’s supposed influence by the Guptas, and said “the ANC continues to confirm its full confidence in our President”.
Mantashe came down hard on the Gupta-owned Ann7 (Africa News Network 7) and New Age paper for writing about factions within the ANC.
In today’s Sunday Times article, Maseko claims that it was for the New Age paper that the Guptas sought government assistance. Maseko is quoted saying: “After niceties, Ajay [one of the Gupta brothers] said: ‘We are setting up a newspaper called The New Age. I want government advertising channelled to the newspaper.'” (Read the full report here.)
Nazeem Howa, CEO of Oakbay Investments, said in a statement Sunday evening: “We are bemused by Mr Maseko’s six-year-old allegations, which are totally unfounded.”
He said: “It is clearly part of an ongoing, coordinated campaign involving others, to continue an already vicious politically-driven attack, using the Gupta family as a proxy.
“As a senior government official at the time of the alleged incident, surely Mr. Maseko would have followed the accepted regulations and responsibilities that came with his role and reported what amounts to serious allegations to the appropriate responsible officials, including his Minister.
“We are keen for Mr Maseko to confirm that this was done at that time in keeping with the legal responsibilities he had as an official of GCIS.”
The statement – distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of Oakbay Investments – says that both Oakbay and the Gupta family have full confidence in the country’s constitution, and appropriate judicial and political processes, to ensure that the truth is exposed for the South African people.
“Finally, if Mr Maseko’s allegations are to be believed, The New Age would have received an extraordinary amount of government advertising post its launch, which the statistics prove is totally untrue,” said Howa.
“For the period from The New Age’s launch on December 6, 2010 to December 31, 2011, (the period that Mr Masebo refers to) the paper received 1,8% of national government’s total advertising spend, which makes a mockery of alleged pressure to push revenue to The New Age.
“Despite TNA Media being a private company, we are taking the unusual step of releasing confidential company information, in the interests of full transparency. For the period December 6, 2010 to December 31, 2011 total advertising booked by GCIS into The New Age was under R2.5million for the full period.”
It has been a week of revelations, allegations and denials related to President Zuma and his close ties with the Gupta Family.