Eskom Inquiry: Ben Martins
31 January 2018
Chairperson: Ms Z Rantho (ANC)
Deputy Minister for Public Enterprises, Mr Ben Martins, in his testimony, disputed Eskom’s suspended head of legal Ms Suzanne Daniels’s claim that the two had a meeting with Mr Duduzane Zuma, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Ajay Gupta at Melrose Arch on July 29, 2017. Mr Martins said that on that day he attended Mr Ronnie Mamoepa’s funeral. This was backed by evidence from his official diary.
Mr Martins clarified that he had met the Guptas with former Prasa CEO Mr Lucky Montana. “I had organised the interaction with Mr Tony Gupta, Mr Duduzane Zuma, and Mr Lucky Montana where issues of Prasa were discussed. I never insinuated that Mr Montana organised the meeting”. In his submission recounting events of the meeting, Deputy Minister Martins said: “Mr Montana arrived first at the meeting. The issue of Prasa’s board was discussed between myself and Mr Montana before the arrival of Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Duduzane Zuma. At the time there was talk and rumours that Mr Buthelezi and Mr Montana were going to be removed as the chairperson and CEO of Prasa respectively. I assured Mr Montana that I would not support his and Mr Buthelezi’s removal as there was no basis and justification for it. Shortly after this meeting, Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Duduzane Zuma arrived at my residence.”
In his testimony the day before, Mr Montana told the Committee that Deputy Minister Martins, in an attempt to clear his name and distance himself from the Gupta family, created the impression that Mr Montana brought members of the Gupta family to Mr Martins.
Members asked Deputy Minister Martins why the Guptas felt comfortable to meet and talk about a tenders with Ministers/Deputy Ministers were had busy schedules and it was difficult even for Members of Parliament to arrange meetings with them. They asked if the Gupta request about the plane carrying wedding guest was a one of its kind for the then Transport Minister.
The Chairperson for the Inquiry, Ms Zukiswa Rantho, asked Mr Martins to apologise to the Committee for the media reports where he referred to the Inquiry as a kangaroo court. Mr Martins said he had never regarded the Inquiry as a kangaroo court, and requested he be provided with proof of his saying this. “I have never ever said that this Committee is a kangaroo court. I would like whoever has articulated this to provide the requisite proof. It is not the first time I’ve heard this,” said Mr Martins.
The Chairperson clarified to the media and all South Africans that Mr Lucky Montana had come to clear his name because he was mentioned by the Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises in a media statement. Mr Montana did not come to the Committee to deal with Prasa. Although he had mentioned a lot of things dealing with Prasa, this entity did not fall under Public Enterprises, but rather under Transport.
The Chairperson welcomed Deputy Minister Ben Martins and read the affirmation to Mr Martins.
Mr Martins affirmed to tell the truth before the Committee.
Mr Martins said that he had prepared a statement which was provided to Members. He opted to read his statement in its entirety before the Committee so as not to leave anything behind.
The Chairperson granted Mr Martins time to read his statement.
Witness: Mr Ben Martins
Mr Martins read his statement to the Committee.
Chairperson: Thank you Honorable Deputy Minister for the statement you have read. I will now hand over to the Evidence Leader.
Adv Vanara: Thank you. I would like us to go to your letter of 5 December 2017 addressed to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises Ms Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe. You are responding in this letter to a letter dated 30 November 2017. You acknowledge been furnished with a legal opinion, and you say you had not at the time managed to obtain advice on the opinion. Can you see the third paragraph where you say “I have not had an opportunity to seek legal advice on the legal opinion you provided”.
Mr Martins: That’s correct.
Adv Vanara: I just want to find out if you have subsequent to this matter obtained legal advice on the opinion that the Committee received from Adv Wim Trengrove Senior Counsel (SC)?
Mr Martins: On the legal advice of Adv Trengrove, the Senior Counsel to my right spoke about it to me.
Adv Vanara: Is there convergence on the opinion or is there difference of opinion to that of Adv Trengrove?
Mr Martins: From what I recall SC Lebala next to me said there are portions of the legal opinion of Adv Trengrove he agrees with, but there are other matters he has a difference of opinion with what’s written there.
Adv Vanara: On administrative justice applicability to this process, was there convergence or disagreement around that, you can consult SC just to refresh your memory around that, sir?
Mr Martins: SC says there are aspects of the legal opinion that he differed with. I would request through you Chairperson that he articulates what the differences are because he knows them better. He is the one who told me what differences he had with Adv Trengrove. That will make it easier.
Adv Vanara: Was SC’s opinion in writing or verbal advice?
Mr Martins: It was both. He did furnish a copy in writing and he spoke to aspects of that.
Adv Vanara: It is fine, all I wanted was for SC to speak on applicability of the administrative justice principles to this kind of an inquiry. That’s all that I want a view from SC.
The Chairperson: SC to respond
Adv Lebala: Thank you Members of this important august forum of our democracy. Certainly an opinion of SC remains an opinion. My colleague Wim Trengrove SC esteemed is a SC and I am a SC. My clients were advised of the differences in the interpretation of procedural facts. To summarise and assist this forum, the interpretation of the principles of procedural fairness are not unique to this important forum. This forum does not have its own principles that govern procedural fairness. What has always bewailed the ministry and in particular Minister Lynne Brown and Deputy Minister has been how the processes in particular of implicated persons in as far as this forum is concerned were handled.
Let me give an example, implicated persons' versions were not put before witnesses. Throughout my seating where I attended this important forum I have never heard the Evidence Leader saying to one of the witnesses “You are implicating Deputy Minister Ben Martins”. I had the duty to consult Deputy Minister Ben Martins after speaking with you because this process limits cross examination. Be informed that during my consultation with you when you are implicating Deputy Minister Ben Martins and or when you are implicating Minister Lynne Brown I had the duty to go and consult with them and tell them how you are implicating them. I also had the duty to put their versions to you as an implicating witness. That’s a typical example. Fundamentally, that’s one of the most bewailing concerns that my opinion had to deal with, and my interpretation of what fairness entailed in that regard differed completely to that of my colleague, esteemed Trengrove SC.
To summarise it Adv Vanara, my opinion says you had an obligation together with members of this forum when you consult with a witness that you avoid one version. The standards and principles of administrative justice and fair administrative processes and procedures call upon you when you consult with a witness to say, “You are implicating Lebala”. Let me give a hypothesis. The processes of this forum do not accept Lebala to cross examine. I have a duty to put the version of Lebala so that one version should not heard. And that’s the basis upon which I differed with Trengrove SC, and that’s what I have been advising the Minister and Deputy Minister from the onset that let your versions or the versions of any witness also be put. And remember that’s just my view as SC. Trengrove is entitled to his own opinion, and I am entitled to my own opinion. In conclusion I say respectably before this forum that I think the standards of fairness fell short in line with that important premise of our democracy that says administrative fair procedures cannot be lowered.
Adv Vanara: Thanks, Counsel, and as you have said it, it is matter of two different opinions provided to different set of clients, and the clients acting in accordance with the advice from their lawyers.
Adv Lebala: Adv Vanara with respect may I close…
The Chairperson: With due respect Adv SC Lebala we give people time to respond to any question and those people give other people time to respond. You are getting into Adv Vanara’s mouth. You should give him a chance to speak and then if he still wants you back, because we are not here for you. We are here for Deputy Minister. In fact this is just a fair process that you are given to respond to what Adv Vanara is saying on legal administrative issues. So you are not here to interrogate anyone. Over to you Adv Vanara.
Adv Vanara: That is fine. Thanks for the clarity. Back to the Minister, in your initial submission, I think it is part and parcel of the documents that you have been given. It must be the second document which is your submission that you made in December together with the latter. You made reference to three set of letters and the one was 9 August in which the Minister had requested clarity on procedural fairness to the Committee. Can you see that, it is the second page of your submission?
Mr Martins: I can see that. 1.2?
Adv Vanara: Yes you are correct Deputy Minister.
You seem to take an issue that this letter was not responded to at the time. Was the Deputy Minister aware that during this period, after the Committee had taken a decision to institute this inquiry, that the Committee struggled to get technical support in implementing its decision inquiry?
Mr Martins: I was not aware of that.
Adv Vanara: Notwithstanding that the Parliamentary Liaison Officer (PLO) and other officials of the department were in attendance of the Committee meetings?
Mr Martins: I was not aware of the challenges that you had of organising responsibility. I was not privy to that information.
Adv Vanara: Further, on the issues raised in that letter, is the Deputy Minister prepared to concede that these were legal matters in nature that required the Committee to be advised legally?
Mr Martins: Yes.
Adv Vanara: The timeous response to the letter if you were to be told that these were as a result of technical support to the Committee at the time, would the Deputy Minister’s stance change from the initial position of saying these letters were not responded timeously?
Mr Martins: That would be a reasonable response. The other issue we should also take cognizance of is that the letter was written to your office by the Minister and that the response to that was expected by the Minister, and the information that I had was that the letter was sent and there had been no response to it. And from the side of the Minister I got no further information whether there was a response or not, nor did she intermit to me that she was aware of the challenges that you had. With the background that you have given, if a response of this nature was given, it would be appropriate for any reasonable person to understand why there wasn’t a letter forthcoming as soon as possible to explain what the challenges were.
Adv Vanara: Then there was a second letter. I see you are referring to it in paragraph 1.3 as the 16 October. I assume that you are referring to the letter that dated the 13th which got to Parliament on the 17th to which there was a response which you referred to in 1.4 on page three of your submission dated the 20 October 2017. In other words the second letter was responded to. I want us to go to paragraphb1.9 on page four of your submission Deputy Minister where you say in the Portfolio Committee’s response to the Minister’s letter, the Committee indicated that in the event that a witness implicates an individual, that individual will be notified and may attend the proceedings: "I was not informed that Ms Daniels would implicate me and I was not requested to attend the proceedings". And this is an issue that SC has taken up. Before we can deal with this, there is a tweet that was attributed to Deputy Minister. I just want to read it to confirm whether it was indeed your tweet. And this was on the 9 November 2017 after Ms Suzanne Daniels had testified. It appears as ‘Dikobe Ben Martins’ @dikobebm where the tweet reads: “There are many ways to kill a man. The only ammunition you need for character assassination is to allege a phantom meeting with a Gupta without any shred of proof and then drown what is left of your conscience with a glass of whiskey”. Can this tweet be attributed to you Deputy Minister?
Mr Martins: If you tweet something it remains as a record so I’ll have to check the record of my tweets for 9 November. Offhand it sounds like something I might have written, but I will have to check the veracity of the framing of the wording there.
Adv Vanara: When you come to the conclusion that Ms Daniels testimony implicates you, is it because of legal advice that you sought or a conclusion you came to on your own?
Mr Martins: If I understand what you are saying, did I come to conclusion that she implicates me as a result of my assessment or legal advice that I receive, my response is that on the basis of her testimony placing me in a meeting I was not, that implicates me to some form of meeting that I was not party to. That’s my assessment.
Adv Vanara: So you had not sought legal advice on this matter, you on your own assessed the situation and decided that this was implicating you?
Mr Martins: From the information in front of me, this is the conclusion that I came to. Why would somebody place me in a meeting I was not, what’s the motive of this?
Adv Vanara: In your understanding, what is that you were implicated in, was it just a mere presence in what you term a meeting?
Mr Martins: My understanding, my recollection of the testimony given to the Portfolio Committee is that there was a meeting and at that meeting the Brian Molefe matter was discussed, the Deputy Judge President’s Office was discussed as to how the date could be postponed to a later period or after a certain period. All that, it’s my view that it placed me in a context I would not be where you discuss how to undermine the Office of the Deputy Chief Judge President.
Adv Vanara: This was Ms Suzanne’s testimony before the Committee specifically in reference to your name that she had received a telephone call from Mr Salim Essa inviting her to Melrose Arch to have a cup of tea together, and that when she got to Melrose Arch she was taken to a flat in Melrose Arch wherein yourself, and a Mr Gupta were in the flat, and that Mr Gupta then started asking her about the status of Mr Brian Molefe’s matter and when that case would be heard. And at the meeting you didn’t say anything. The sense that I at least got of the meeting was that this was not a meeting with an agenda to discuss Mr Brian Molefe’s pending case in court which was to be heard, but rather you found yourself in a room where someone had raised an issue with her. So there was no reference to you having been part of a meeting and contributing to the discussion, nor having demonstrated any knowledge of a prior discussion on this matter. This is where I must be upfront with you Honourable Deputy Minister, at that stage, I as Evidence Leader did not see any evidence implicating you in any wrong doing. This is what I want to understand, what is it that you found so implicating in wrongdoing that could be attributed to yourself?
Mr Martins: My response was just that how does someone place me in a meeting that I was not? Simple. And I couldn’t understand this. Why should I be placed in a meeting and someone leads evidence here. And my rationalisation of this afterwards was why my response was what it was. Why am I placed in this context of this meeting? The response immediately was that “Martins is in a Gupta meeting and what have you”. As I said in my earlier statement, 2012 and four years ago was a different dispensation. Right now members of that particular family are regarded as corruption personified so the next day I went to address a press conference. I was asked why I was at that meeting. It was not your innocent interpretation of somebody been found there. The association was that there must have been something wrong that was being done there.
Adv Vanara: So if I understand you correctly, correct me if I am wrong. So it was the mere association with the Gupta family that drew you to conclude that you were implicated in some form of wrongdoing?
Mr Martins: As I said earlier, first and foremost why locate me in a meeting that I was not and I don’t know what’s been discussed there, and then members of the Gupta family are mentioned there, and in the current environment so that raised questions in my mind.
Adv Vanara: That would be consistent and I do concede that you seem to verify the wording of your tweet where you say “There are many ways to kill a man and the only ammunition you need for character assassination is to allege a phantom meeting with a Gupta”. From this I read again that in your view in this toxic environment an association to the Guptas is something bad, and thus you need to distance yourself particularly when you are of the view that it didn’t happen.
Mr Martins: As I said, I don’t have the wording of the tweet in front of me but what I can say to you is that there are two poetry books that I wrote; Baptism of Fire before I went to Robben Island in 1983, and Prison Poems. I think in Baptism of Fire there is a poem that I wrote there that there are many ways to kill a man, and that was referring to interrogation, torture, discrediting, so the context there as I say, I can’t without the wording of the tweet you refer to, and the authenticity of the tweet if it is my tweet and if I had written it. But the association there I can see, so the wording there and the wording would be from that poem that there are many ways to kill a man.
Adv Vanara: Tweets are in cellphones, is it correct Deputy Minister?
Mr Martins: Yes.
Adv Vanara: Do you still have your phone?
Mr Martins: I still have my phone.
Adv Vanara: Is it difficult to check this tweet so that we clarify this thing once and for all?
Mr Martins: I don’t have the phone with me, it is with VIP Protection Services before I came to the meeting. I handed over my two phones to them.
Adv Vanara: You have given in both your submissions that we are going through the steps of what you did on the day from 3.8 to 3.14 on page six, and today you have also indicated that the people that you were with at the ANC Lekgotla and dinner are prepared to testify to that effect. But is the Deputy Minister prepared to concede that the individuals mentioned specifically in paragraph 3.14 cannot attest to the Deputy Minister’s movements after he left the ANC Lekgotla that evening?
Mr Martins: As I said in my statement, I left there at approximately 8:30pm and in the company of VIP Protection Unit and they took me to my residence. So the people I mentioned here, it states there they can attest for the time I spent with them at the ANC Lekgotla.
Adv Vanara: The question there Deputy Minister is that they will end there, they will say you were here with us but they can’t say what the Deputy Minister did after leaving the ANC Lekgotla is that correct?
Mr Martins nodded his head in agreement.
Adv Vanara: Let’s get to your meeting with Mr Lucky Montana. You issued a statement and this is one of the reasons Mr Montana came to testify yesterday. In a media statement you implied or insinuated that it was Mr Montana who introduced the Gupta brother to you, but Mr Montana’s version is the other way around. You seem to be confirming that today that at the meeting that took place at your residence, Mr Montana got there first and that the two gentleman joined the meeting. Is that correct sir?
Mr Martins: What I would like to correct is that the day after Ms Daniels gave her testimony I had a press briefing and at the press briefing I said specifically in reply to a question that was asked; “Have you had meetings with the Guptas?” and I mentioned about three or four different occasions I had interactions with the Guptas. And one of those interactions I mentioned I said that there is a meeting I organised in order to discuss issues pertinent to Prasa, Mr Montana, I am not sure if he saw that himself or heard from somebody else about that briefing got the impression that I had said that he brought the Guptas to me which was never the case. It has never been said by myself. If there is a clip of that particular engagement it will show me saying that “I organised that particular meeting”.
Adv Vanara: The different engagements between yourself and the Gupta brothers and including Mr Duduzane Zuma in certain instances, let me be specific. When one of the Gupta brothers called you in connection with the landing of the plane at Waterkloof base, I don’t know if I am being misled by the sequencing of events in your submission but it appears to be long after interactions that you, Mr Montana and the Gupta brothers would have had around Prasa issues. Is that a correct understanding?
Mr Martins: It seems so. I would have to check the dates but it does seem to be an event after that engagement with Mr Lucky Montana.
Adv Vanara: And you do recall that when Mr Montana came back from Berlin, there is no factual dispute at least around that, he came back furious about what he had learned in Berlin at the meeting, to which you also confirm. And in your testimony you even rebuked Mr Tony Gupta. Did you receive any complaints from a person or one of the Gupta brothers about Mr Montana refusing to allow Salim Essa and Mr Iqbal [Sharma] to serve on the evaluation panel of this tender that you had discussions on?
Mr Martins: I do not recall that. What I recall is that shortly after I became Minister of Transport, I had been given a report by officials at Prasa that that the process pertaining to the Rolling Stock acquisition for Prasa, had run its course and was at an end. And I was also informed that the committee that was in charge of overseeing the tender process was a committee of the board of Prasa and CEO. There had been a process and independent people were responsible for that tender process; they were in lockdown; there was a particular venue where they were where; they were not in access with anybody – a secured venue – that was the information that I had. I could not see how anybody else could be parachuted into that process at a late stage.
Adv Vanara: When did you learn about that, is it before you called Mr Montana to your residence where you were later joined by and Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Duduzane Zuma?
Mr Martins: No the information as to what happens at various entities was given to me as soon as I became Minister. I was given reports as to what’s happening in the different areas shortly after my appointment.
Adv Vanara: So this would have been even before your meeting with Mr Montana.
Mr Martins: Yes.
Adv Vanara: If you knew that this process was at an advanced level and you were approached by Mr Tony Gupta with Mr Duduzane Zuma about the process, why didn’t you just give them the briefing you had received after you had assumed office, why was it necessary for you Deputy Minister to call Mr Montana to that meeting?
Mr Martins: In my interaction with them I told them that the information that I have is that the tender process was open. Stakeholders, any interested parties were entitled to engage in that process. If they had not done so, that was their fault. Then he mentions the issues that I elaborate here in my statement, what was the duration of this process, was it open and fair, where was it advertised; a number of technical, specific questions that I did not have the information to. Then somewhere along the line he said that he would take the matter to court and what have you. And I said that there is somebody who can give you the information in regard to the course that this process has run, to obviate you taking the department to court. Then I organised this meeting with Mr Montana for him solely to explain to them where this process was. And that was the remit and extent of this meeting, and he did so at that meeting.
Adv Vanara: Was there any prior engagement between yourself and the two gentlemen that were at the meeting about Mr Lucky Montana’s suitability for his position as CEO of Prasa?
Mr Martins: No, there was no prior engagement with them in regard to Mr Montana’s position. As I was appointed Minister of Transport, Mr Montana was the CEO, and Mr Buthelezi was the Chairperson, and there were board members there. In that context I learned from Mr Montana and Mr Buthelezi that there was word and rumors going around that the two of them could be removed from Prasa, and I said to them verbally that I would not allow any situation where anybody can influence me unduly, or anybody in the department to have them removed without justified reason. And I even went further to say to them that if that had to happen, then I also would fall with them – be removed with them.
Adv Vanara: Mr Montana testified yesterday and it is in his submission on page 55 where he says that “They (Mr Gupta and Mr Duduzane Zuma) were arrogant and reminded Ben Martins that they did not want me, and he had convinced them that I was his comrade”. Do you remember such a discussion?
Mr Martins: I don’t remember such a discussion.
Adv Vanara: Did such a discussion take place?
Mr Martins: I have said I don’t remember such a discussion taking place. So in my presence it did not take place.
Adv Vanara: Did it take place in the presence of Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Duduzane Zuma?
Mr Martins: I thought this is what I just answered now that such a discussion did not take place in my presence that they had to be removed.
Adv Vanara: You are aware that in your submission you are not dealing with this particular issue that you are disputing now. Why?
Mr Martins: The reason is that I have not gone through Mr Montana’s statement. He gave his version of events yesterday. I have not received his testimony, and I didn’t watch his testimony over TV. So after he gave his testimony all I had to do was basically prepare my input myself. I have not gone through his testimony.
Adv Vanara: So the SC that was here yesterday and your Head of Legal who were given the submission did not bring this important thing to your attention, is that what you are saying?
Mr Martins: No no. I am saying that at what time? I don’t know at what time they were given. All I have said to you was that at the time Mr Montana spoke before two o’clock, I am not sure what time he spoke. I only had sight of the submission that Mr Montana made after the SC and the other advocate came back from the proceedings and that was already late at night. So this particular portion that you referred to, I have not seen it.
Adv Vanara: I accept that you didn’t see it, but they did not bring it to your attention, is that what you are saying?
Mr Martins: No, I don’t remember them bringing it to my attention.
Adv Vanara: In your assessment of the conduct of these two gentlemen; Mr Duduzane Zuma and Mr Atul Gupta, did you at any stage find their behavior problematic?
Mr Martins: In my interactions with Mr Tony Gupta, I have seen an avid businessman who is looking for avenues to find ways of making money or strengthening his company.
Adv Vanara: In other words, you have not seen any wrongdoing in him?
Mr Martins: No, I have seen that he is a person who, as I said in my submission, the first time I got into contact with them was when they were running Sahara, and what I had read about South African Sahara was that it was a medium sized company struggling to grow. And on the various occasions, which is why I say that my impression, what I see has been like any other businessman who’s looking for opportunities to empower or enrich their company.
Adv Vanara: Not even after Mr Montana came back from Berlin and told them in front you what they were doing in the name of the President?
Mr Martins: That one I covered. My recollection was that Mr Montana had given me a report on this and then when we met him we told him exactly what we felt about what Lucky says they allegedly did outside the country.
Adv Vanara: You said you rebuked them. That’s the words in your statement. Did you rebuke them for doing the right thing, or for doing the wrong thing?
Mr Martins: I have never come across somebody who rebukes someone for doing the right thing. So when I rebuked them it was on the basis of the information that Mr Montana had given me that there was misrepresentation and that can’t be correct even if the person is an avid businessman who wants to enhance the company. But you can’t enhance it with misrepresentation and utilising the names of the Office of the President, a Minister, and a CEO in a company.
Adv Vanara: So at least for the record that was the first instance that you saw something was wrong here, correct?
Mr Martins: Yes, that was the first instance. I had no proof but I had to work on the basis of trust and the report I heard from Lucky.
Adv Vanara: When Mr Tony Gupta called you for permission to land at Waterkloof, was that the right thing to do?
Mr Martins: I would like to correct that portion. Mr Tony Gupta never called me for permission to land at Waterkloof. Waterkloof Airbase falls under the Department of Defence; it does not fall under the Department of Transport. So when he called me and asked if the plane could land at OR Tambo International Airport, the size of that plane is like any other plane. I don’t recall whether it is a 727 or whatever. The issue in question there is that many planes from different countries, to be specific a plane would come from India, it would have to land like any other plane. But the permission sought here was that when our plane lands at OR Tambo is it possible that where the plane has landed that there can be a welcoming ceremony there so that as our guests get out the plane, they can be received. And my response was that it can’t happen for a few reasons and I articulated the reason. Any plane that lands there, as people get out there, you can’t have song and dance as people get out. Where people get out of the plane and where they go to scan their passport, that falls under the remit of Home Affairs, it is not Transport. Only after you have stamped your passport and go through to fetch your luggage, that is where the jurisdiction of Transport is. I explained all these things as to why it could not happen there and I suggested that to my knowledge I know there is an airport closer to Sun City where the wedding was scheduled to take place. And I said I have never been to Pilanesberg International Airport, but what I was informed was that it was a smaller airport like an aerodrome. They might be able to accommodate a plane landing, depending on its size and organise a reception area. I said it can’t happen at OR Tambo International Airport.
Adv Vanara: I am sorry, and let me acknowledge that in your submission it is OR Tambo and not Waterkloof Airbase. In your tenure as Transport Minister, have you ever received such a request?
Mr Martins: No I have not.
Adv Vanara: Did you ask Mr Gupta what was the basis of him making such a request to you about the dance at the airport?
Mr Martins: He said that would be a good way of welcoming his guests if there is a ceremony there, and I said it cannot happen there. It is not regular.
Adv Vanara: Was it not because he considered you a friend and that he could ask a favour from a friend?
Mr Martins: Mr Gupta has never been my friend. Within the remit of my various responsibilities as Minister of Transport, and before that as Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, and Minister of Energy, you meet many individuals from different stations of life, and if they make requests, where it is reasonable and where it is possible, you do so. But under no circumstance can I say that Mr Tony Gupta is a friend of mine. He is not a friend of mine.
Adv Vanara: Was it because of a relationship? Might not have been a friendship but as you say you meet a number of business people, they request interests in this or that. Was it because of that he would have had courage because you say nobody has ever made such a request in your tenure as a Minister of Transport?
Mr Martins: I am not sure if it is a question of courage or somebody looking after their own interest. People always, for lack of a better conceptualization, push their own envelope in their own interests.
Adv Vanara: The Prasa AGM that was postponed, you were still the Transport Minister. Mr Montana testified yesterday and it is also in his testimony that an Indian chap had earlier indicated to him that the AGM would be postponed, and indeed it was postponed. Why was the AGM postponed?
Mr Martins: I would have to check as to why the AGM was postponed. Preparations for AGMs involve the Office of the Minister, the Office of the Director-General (DG), it involves the board of an entity, it involves the CEO and Chairperson there, so there are a multiplicity of factors that can result in the AGM taking place on time or not. So in this particular instance I don’t want to just guess and say for this reason the AGM was cancelled, I would have to canvas and find out for this particular period why the AGM did not take place at the first appointed date.
Adv Vanara: One last question Deputy Minister, you are aware that your Committee was looking at certain governance lapses within Eskom?
Mr Martins: Which Committee?
Adv Vanara: This Committee. You were aware of that?
Mr Martins: Yes, that’s the remit of one of the aims and objectives of this inquiry.
Adv Vanara: And that there has been testimony that has been produced before the Committee including that of Suzanne Daniels to which you have responded. And in your December submission you don’t deal with the issues surrounding Mr Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma. You only deal with it after Mr Montana has made a submission and gave testimony yesterday. Is that correct?
Mr Martins: That’s correct. Then we should also look at the correspondence that I have received as the Deputy Minister. If I recall, the first invitation was to deal with lack of governance at Eskom, but the manner in which the letter was framed, my rejoined response was that in terms of delegation of responsibility that is directly the purview of the Minister. Subsequent to that, there was another letter that I received and then I think that particular letter said “deal with the testimony of Ms Suzanne Daniels”. Then subsequent to that a third letter was received on the 26th of this month saying that “Suzanne’s matter yes, but also be aware that Mr Montana in his testimony might implicate you”. So in that context, sir, I did not know the remit of Mr Montana’s evidence, if there was something that I had to engage or respond to. I could only do that late last night after the good advocate and the other advocate came back from this engagement to say that this is what transpired, and these are some of the elements. On that basis I responded to one or two of the issues. I could not have done so if that was not the guidance that I received from the Committee. If we recall in my letter or where I started, I thanked the Committee Chairperson for the guidance given to me, saying that the issue of Ms Suzanne Daniels will be canvassed, and the issues raised by Mr Montana, thus I responded to some of the meetings and issues to put them into context as I remember.
Adv Vanara: So before Mr Lucky Montana came forward, the Deputy Minister did not deem it necessary to take the Committee into confidence, yes, disputing you were at the meeting as alleged by Suzanne Daniels, but also saying that look the only instances, as you have done now, I met these individuals were these different instances?
Mr Martins: No. I think we should put things into context. You have just said that I did not deem it necessary to take the Committee into confidence in regard to my engagements with the Guptas. Am I understanding correctly?
Adv Vanara: I am just asking did you not deem it necessary, I am not saying you deemed it necessary.
Mr Martins: Yes. What I have said even in public that immediately after Ms Suzanne Daniels made input here, I spoke in a public forum where I addressed a press conference about different instances where I met members of the Gupta family. So it is not a question that if I had not mentioned it in a previous conversation that I would not have mentioned it. I had no problem with mentioning it, which is why at a press briefing I gave instances that led to the “misunderstanding that Mr Montana had that he had brought Tony Gupta to me”.
Adv Vanara: No further questions Chair.
The Chairperson: I am now going to give over to Members to ask questions, but I just want to put it on record that we are not a court of law. The approach that we took as this Committee is to listen to everybody whom we think will give us a clear picture of what is happening in Eskom. We are not putting people on a stand here and saying you are an accused, and you are a witness that is going to give evidence against the accused. I want to clarify that our approach is to get information from those people implicated and from people who think they have information that can help the Committee to either clarify the implicated people or to further give evidence against the implicated people. We are not a court of law, and we will never be a court of law. Our approach will never be the same as a court of law. I just wanted to clarify that.
Questions by Committee Members
Mr M Gungubele (ANC): The question was asked to you, Deputy Minister, whether when tender queries are raised with you, you call a meeting similar to the one you called with Montana. What was your response?
Mr Martins: My response to?
Mr Gungubele: Is it the first time you called Montana to give clarification when such questions are raised?
Mr Martins: Honourable member, I did say that there are meetings, most of the meetings take place at the office, but there are some meetings that I have conducted outside the office. And I did say that in this particular instance there was a series of questions with regards to when the tender took place, for how long, where it was advertised, and I covered that. And that in that particular instance where the party concerned felt that it would be necessary for him to take the matter to court, I said to him, “Before you go to court, can I arrange that you meet with the CEO who would be able to explain the history of this particular tender and answer your questions more appropriately than I can”, so that was the context; it is not to say that each and every person who comes and says this. I will try and assist with information where I can.
Mr Gungubele: Let me ask it this way, is it the first time you called Montana to give clarifications when such questions are raised?
Mr Martins: In regard to the Prasa issue, the questions were specific to a particular tender.
Mr Gungubele: You know there is an accusation outside there that we don’t give you time to explain yourself, but it becomes a problem when you don’t respond directly. My question is, irrespective which other tender, you were working with Montana for a particular period of time while he was CEO and you were the Minister; is it the first time you had to call Montana to make such clarification when such questions are raised?
Mr Martins: In my recollection that was the first time I called him in particular, in reference to that matter.
Mr Gungubele: If it is the first time, this is the interesting part about this, it means such questions have never been asked before whilst you were a Minister. That question was unique amongst all the questions regarding a tender to such an extent that it was the only time you called Montana for clarification.
Mr Martins: I must say that I am not following the gist of your question Honourable member.
Mr Gungubele: Remember, my narrative is that you explained that is it your tradition when such questions are raised you call Montana to clarify? You explained the reason, now my next question is, that reason, was it a unique one and as such the only one that occurred in your tenure?
Mr Martins: Where I am not clear is where you say “Was that unique, was that the only one in my tenure as the Minister of Transport”? I would like to answer you but I am not exactly clear what it is I must answer.
Mr Gungubele: Let me ask this question for the last time. Is the question asked by the Guptas to you and the weight you attached to it the first kind of such question during your tenure in the department?
Mr Martins: From what I think you are saying, in my submission it is clear that in the various positions that I have occupied including Transport Minister I have interacted with various stakeholders and on the basis of the information they request it depends who can best assist them with information. I would refer them to the relevant person. Where I can answer I will give them the information. Where I can’t give or don’t have sufficient technical information, I will pass the matter over to the DG or go to the entity
Mr Gungubele: Sorry, Honourable Deputy Minister, I think you understand the question but you don’t want to answer it because my question seeks to check if this type of question and the weight you attached to it when you were Minister of Transport was the first time you were asked. This is so that we can check how consistent you are in calling Montana to clarify such questions. I am clear you understood it, it is my view that you don’t want to respond to it.
Mr Martins: No …
Mr Gungubele: It is my view.
Mr Martins: And it is also my view that I have not understood how you articulated your question.
Mr Gungubele: Thank you. No, it is fine. I am saying you understood my view. Thank you. Next point, post Berlin, Montana seeks to explain a lot of things that happened in a meeting where you sat, where amongst other things the Guptas said, “We can work with you and pay you through Dubai”. Did these things happen in that meeting?
Mr Martins: No.
Mr Gungubele: They didn’t raise that?
Mr Martins: No.
Mr Gungubele: Montana raised allegations of extortion of manufacturers during the Berlin conference as a result of which he called this meeting, did he raise these things in this meeting?
Mr Martins: The meeting was called by Montana, and in that particular meeting as I said earlier, the issue was raised that in furtherance of their business he cannot and should not abuse the names of the President, myself, and Mr Montana.
Mr Gungubele: I asked a specific question, Deputy Minister, that Montana says “Manufacturers were put under pressure by the Guptas to make certain payments” I am asking if you remember this being raised in that meeting?
Mr Martins: No. In the meeting he raised all the issues…
Mr Gungubele: I am asking a specific question, was this specific question raised?
Mr Martins: As part of the meeting where he was saying that the names of the individuals mentioned were abused, he mentioned that from his knowledge, from his information they were seeking to get monies from third parties because they were using the names. So that issue was raised in the context of that meeting.
Mr Gungubele: What was the response of the Guptas?
Mr Martins: They denied this.
Mr Gungubele: Do you remember the postponement as cited by Essa, or this third man? Do you remember the third man whose name Montana says he cannot remember?
Mr Martins: In that meeting there was Tony Gupta, Duduzane, and there was a third Indian gentleman, I think his name was Prakesh/Rajesh.
Mr Gungubele: Montana says this man alleged that a 12 September 2012 conference would be postponed. Were you aware of that?
Mr Martins: No, I was not aware of that.
Mr Gungubele: So it never came to your knowledge?
Mr Martins: No.
Mr Gungubele: It is said that they are amongst those who played a role that the board should be changed, and you actually stood up and said no. Do you know who was responsible for the intention for the board to remove Buthelezi and Lucky?
Mr Martin: In my interaction with Mr Buthelezi and Mr Montana they informed me that the pressure to have them removed they believed was from Mr Gupta. And I told them that I would not accede to any undue pressure.
Mr Gungubele: Was that pressure exercised on you?
Mr Martins: No, that pressure was not put to me.
Mr Gungubele: So you had no reason to act on that at any point in time.
Mr Martins: Yes.
Mr Gungubele: You know why I am asking all these things, I asked a question to you about Dubai payments and you said that it was not raised. Montana said that in that meeting they said they could work with him and pay him via Dubai. You said that was not raised.
Mr Martins: In my presence.
Mr Gungubele: Remember at the opening, you must go and check this out, you said you don’t remember everything that happened in that meeting. But this one you are sure did not happen. Do you want to make a comment?
Mr Martins: The undue pressure on me?
Mr Gungubele: No. I asked you the Dubai payment narrative. You said this was not said in that meeting, and I am asking that in your opening with Adv Vanara you said you don’t remember everything; but this one you remember was not said.
Mr Martins: I don’t recall that been said in my presence.
Mr Gungubele: In your tweet you are reacting to an unfair accusation by Suzanne Daniels and you don’t remember what you said in the tweet. Remember you were preparing almost every day until yesterday and this morning, and you were preparing to deal with whatever issue that affects you, in particular the one said by Suzanne and you reacted through Twitter. And you say you can’t remember exactly what you said in your tweet. If I was the one saying that to you about my Twitter, would you find me believable?
Mr Martins: In regard to Twitter, I have tweeted more than 2500 tweets. I can’t recall every word I have tweeted. That’s a fact. If you can recall each and everything you have tweeted…
Mr Gungubele: On a matter as serious as this which affects your integrity, and you were planning all the time to defend yourself.
Mr Martins: So why should I recall that particular tweet for this engagement, why should I?
Mr Gungubele: Oh. You don’t have to?
Mr Martins: I don’t have to. Why should I recall the tweet?
Mr Gungubele: Thank you.
Ms N Mazzone (DA): Deputy Minister, before you were made the Minister of Transport, did you ever meet the Guptas at their Saxonwold home?
Mr Martins: As part of my testimony I stated there that as Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises during my first stint, the first time I met them was at the SABC TNA Breakfast show where the Minister was in charge of proceedings. Some members attended there. Subsequent to that I did state in my submission that the Gupta family organised a food fair at one of the Saxonwold homes and I stated that I attended that.
Ms Mazzone: And at that food fair, did you attend it with the then former DG of DPE?
Mr Martins: No. I don’t recall that.
Ms Mazzone: Deputy Minister, you must understand that we find it as a bit curious that you actually said to the Gupta that if they didn’t like what was happening with the tender process they should go to court but later on in your testimony …
Mr Martins: I didn’t say if they don’t like what’s happening with the tender process they should go to court. Mr Tony Gupta said that he was not happy with some aspects, and that he would exercise his right to go to court and I said that he is free to do so.
Ms Mazzone: Right. You tell them this, “You are free to go to court. Do whatever you see fit”. But then you still take Mr Montana to see them afterwards. Why would you do this, were you being bullied into having meetings with the Guptas?
Mr Martins: No. I wasn’t bullied into having meetings with them. It is what I have stated in my submission. My conversation is that he articulates all those issues and according to him, he believes there wasn’t sufficient time, where was the tender advertised? It is in that context that I say in order to get information in regard to this aspect, it might be better to engage the CEO. He can give you the background, how the process was run, where it started, where it is right now, instead of taking the entity to court.
Ms Mazzone: Deputy Minister, let me tell you as a Member of Parliament (MP) it is virtually impossible to get a Minister or Deputy Minister to have a meeting with one. One can only imagine that being a member of the public it is also quite difficult to gain access to a Minister or Deputy Minister, especially if you are a small developing enterprise as you said Sahara Computers was when you first met with the Guptas. I have got to tell you, and it’s not just me, I think a lot of people will agree with me that it is highly suspicious that you have business people simply out of the blue especially at your personal residence because my understanding of good corporate governance is that especially if you are meeting with someone who is interested in a tender you do so in an environment such as your office where your meetings are recorded. What I would like to know is how did the Gupta family get hold of you in the first place?
Mr Martins: Let me start where you began. I’ll disagree that it is difficult to get all Ministers and Deputy Ministers to engage with MPs or members of the public. In my experience as a Minister and also as Deputy Minister even to this day, when MPs have sought an audience with me, I have made that possible. In regard to the Gupta family and other business folk, when they have asked for meetings I have sought to direct them to the relevant DDGs or the DG, or where I can I have engaged in those meetings. In my statement I have also stated very clearly that the majority of meetings of an official nature, depending on the remit of the meeting, will take place at the office, but other meetings that Ministers and Deputy Ministers have do take place at the residence. The issue there also is that in this particular instance as I said at the very beginning, as I got in as the Minister of Transport, the information at my disposal was that the tender process had virtually run its end. So when Tony Gupta had asked to see me in regard to this tender and raised all the issues, I found nothing untoward in arranging for him to get clarity because I believed you could not change the tender process when it is already coming to an end. You will not be able to do that.
Ms Mazzone: Okay, Deputy Minister, let me ask you this, you said just now and stated quite categorically that during your meetings with CEOs, the Guptas, and even Duduzane Zuma, you had seen no criminal intent. In other words you yourself had no intention of been involved in any corruption or corrupt activities. Did they have any intention to be involved in corruption or any criminal activities?
Mr Martins: No. as I said earlier, you interact with a number of businessmen. In regard to Tony Gupta, I did say my appraisal of him was a person who would look for opportunities, and where he gets the opportunity, exploit them to the full to advance his business interests.
Ms Mazzone: Deputy Minister, when you were Minister of Transport and you were approached by the Gupta family to have this fanfare welcome to welcome this aeroplane from India, and you quite correctly turned this offer down. It concerns me as to why you would have indicated for them to rather use the Pilanesberg. Let me tell you what I would do if I was the Minister of Transport, if anybody phoned me and said “We want special treatment. A plane is landing, we want fanfare outside to welcome our guests, we are going to bypass all the usual things that every other normal human being should do, that every South African and visitor to your country should do”. I would say that what you’re asking me is corrupt; against the law; in every way or shape wrong. I would then pick up the phone and phone the Hawks and say this has been suggested to me, I think you need to investigate this. I would then pick up the phone and phone my colleague who is the Minister of Home Affairs and warn them that a group of people are going to try and gain entry in our country without having their passports stamped, and certainly would not suggest that this plane go to the Pilanesberg where I don’t think you could have correct imports or any kind of diplomacy, Home Affairs oversight, and certainly the most unusual circumstances ever. I am actually quite astounded that you would have even suggested that to them.
Mr Martins: May I respond to that. I said that the welcome service that they wanted at OR Tambo Airport would not be possible there. Pilanesberg to my knowledge is a small airport and they do have trips to game reserves, and other areas, and they do have reception areas where they accommodate clients. My suggesting that they should try Pilanesberg was not saying that there’s a possible avenue where you can circumvent the regulations and authority of this country. That was not the intention. It was saying that OR Tambo is a busy airport. You can’t have any interruption for a ceremony there. But Pilanesberg is a smaller airport, they could if they wanted to accommodate some of the requests to have the people welcomed there. But the regulations pertain to all airports and aerodromes. There’s no way you can circumvent the legal requirements in this country. The fundamental point I am making is that by my having referred them to Pilanesberg was not to say that you can’t do this here legally, go do it at Pilanesberg. That was not the intention.
Ms Mazzone: Once again I maintain that I think it is highly irregular that even at Pilanesberg it would be allowed. What concerns me is what gave this family the power or even the assumed position of power to even approach you as Minister of Transport with such a bizarre request. And upon you turning them down and then finding out about the Waterkloof Airbase landing, did you question that, and do you know who authorised that, given the fact you didn’t authorise anything at OR Tambo?
Mr Martins: 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 certain regulation. In terms of Waterkloof, that falls under the responsibility of the Department of Defence. The Minister of Transport does not have authority over Waterkloof Airbase. We are not informed which plane lands there, who is in that plane. It is completely run by the Department of Defence. In regard to that I am not responsible. I do not know who gave them permission to land there. It became an issue where the relevant officials had to account how the plane landed there.
Ms Mazzone: So in a Cabinet meeting that normally happens on a Wednesday it was never discussed that the Minister of Transport had said no and now the Minister of Defence said yes. This was never a discussion that came up in Cabinet meeting?
Mr Martins: The deliberations of Cabinet are secret. The Waterkloof matter was discussed there.
Ms Mazzone: Have you ever been instructed by the President to appoint anyone to any board?
Mr Martins: No.
Ms Mazzone: Have you ever been instructed by the President or by any Guptas to give a tender to a certain company?
Mr Martins: No.
Ms Mazzone: Given what we’ve heard and what we know in this Eskom inquiry, do you believe that state capture is a real thing?
Mr Martins: It depends what we mean by state capture. In Eskom there have been lapses of corporate governance and there are individuals being brought to book in regard to those issues there in order to ensure that there is proper governance there.
Ms Mazzone: Chair, my final question is more a statement. I went into the Deputy Minister’s Twitter account, and in his bio he says he is an artist and writer, and some of the tweets are actually profound. On the 21 December 2012 Deputy Minister you wrote; “A day is a very long time in politics. Alliances shift like sand in the wind. Former enemies embrace and kiss, old friends clash and lock horns”. No further questions, Chair.
Mr M Dlamini (EFF): When you were deployed as Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises I said to you that I think you are one of the last people in the ANC with integrity. But clearly I was wrong. I intend to prove to you that you are misleading this Committee. The Guptas are your friends, and everything you did, you did it knowingly, and there is no confusion in terms of “I don’t remember, I can’t recall”. The fact that you brought a lawyer already sends signs. You said you met the Guptas in Saxonwold at a food fair with other Ministers. Who are these Ministers that were there, just give me two?
Mr Martins: What I said in my submission was that the food fair was open to members of the public, and Ministers had been invited. On that particular day, I can’t give you two…
Mr Dlamini: So you don’t remember any Minister. I just want names please.
Mr Martins: You have asked a question, kindly give me the time to respond to your question.
Mr Dlamini: But I won’t allow you to waste my time. I’ll just ask a simple question, who are two Ministers that were there? I don’t want explanations. It’s a straightforward question, yes or no. If you can’t give me names then it is fine.
Mr Martins: There are rules of engagement. If you ask a question, you must be prepared to listen to the answer.
Mr Dlamini: Even if it’s a nonsensical answer?
Mr Martins: Yes, even if it is a nonsensical question.
Mr Dlamini: Who are two Ministers that were there on that day?
Mr Martins: On that particular day, a Minister that I recall was there was Minister Rob Davies.
Mr Dlamini: Thank you. That’s all I wanted to know. In your statement you are saying you met the Guptas in one of their homes in Saxonwold. How many houses do they own in Saxonwold?
Mr Martins: In Saxonwold they have several homes next to each other, so the food fair took place in one of their homes.
Mr Dlamini: Did you visit that house on that day in your capacity as a Minister or in your private capacity?
Mr Martins: The invitation was saying that you are welcome to a food fair to sample different types of Indian food, and I attended. I didn’t say that I am coming here as a Minister or I am coming here as a member of the public.
Mr Dlamini: But I am asking you now.
Mr Martins: Yes. I just went.
Mr Dlamini: You’re saying the Guptas called you regarding the Prasa deal. How did they contact you?
Mr Martins: The conversation that I had with him was on the landline.
Mr Dlamini: At your office?
Mr Martins: Yes.
Mr Dlamini: Not at your private residence?
Mr Martins: No.
Mr Dlamini: Alright. What was the reason for entertaining their call; is it because you went to their house to eat their food, or is it normal business that you entertain calls of business and you even take them to the CEO?
Mr Martins: I told you earlier that the responsibility of Ministers and Deputy Ministers is to interact with all stakeholders and where you can respond to their requests, to do so.
Mr Dlamini: Okay. And then your response to him, Atul Gupta or any other Gupta when they are calling you on the issue of Prasa, you said “According to your understanding, the process has run its course”. You are a Minister, someone calls you about a specific tender, and how do you handle yourself as a Minister? Do you respond to people according to your understanding or according to facts?
Mr Martins: Understanding is based on interpretation of facts.
Mr Dlamini: I can assume that you knew that the facts were that the tender has run its course. It’s no longer an assumption. We want to get to simple English so that we can deal with this.
Mr Martins: Simple English is that the tender on the basis of the information that I was given, on the basis of the facts that I was given, was that this particular tender is running toward its end, and I communicated the same.
Mr Dlamini: When you suggested the meeting, that the Guptas must meet Mr Montana the CEO, did you not think that as a Minister, with experience and educated, that you are exposing the Office of the CEO by bringing business people to him?
Mr Martins: No. I didn’t think that I am compromising him. The CEO of Prasa is very astute and he knows his responsibilities so I had no problems in saying that he should give answers to the queries that were raised.
Mr Dlamini: Did you know that Duduzane Zuma is coming to the meeting?
Mr Martins: No, I didn’t know that Duduzane Zuma was coming to the meeting.
Mr Dlamini: So you were shocked to see him there?
Mr Martins: I was not shocked to see him there.
Mr Dlamini: Why?
Mr Martins: Because I knew that he works with Tony Gupta.
Mr Dlamini: How?
Mr Martins: As a business partner.
Mr Dlamini: But how did you know? You are not into their business.
Mr Martins: I’ve known. It is public knowledge. And it was not the first time that I met ‘Duduzane Gupta’.
Mr Dlamini: Okay. Now that Duduzane Gupta…
Mr Martins: Duduzane Zuma.
Mr Dlamini: Oh, Duduzane Zuma. You are a member of Cabinet serving under Jacob Zuma. You arrange a meeting for the Guptas to meet the CEO. Jacob Zuma’s son comes to the meeting. As a person of integrity that I assume you are, did you go to Jacob Zuma and say; “President, I am a member of your Cabinet. I arranged a meeting for the Guptas to meet the CEO, and your son arrived there”. Just to know, because we are dealing with issues of integrity, did you tell Zuma that his son came to a meeting that you arranged for the Prasa CEO?
Mr Martins: No. I saw nothing untoward in Duduzane Zuma accompanying his business associate to a meeting. And I did not see any necessity to raise the issue with the President.
Mr Dlamini: Nothing?
Mr Martins: Nothing.
Mr Dlamini: Okay. In 32.8 of your statement you say that “I think it is important to remember that the meeting occurred in 2012, the context and public image of members of the Gupta family was not what it is today, namely a family perceived and projected as personification of corruption incarnate”. You are saying “it is perceived”. Why do you say that?
Mr Martins: I am saying that because in my contribution to the Portfolio Committee today I have said that conditions in 2012 and conditions in 2018 are different. Then at that particular stage they were responsible for a medium sized company, and in the public mind, in the court of public opinion they had not been judged as this family that is seen as corrupt, but today, 2018, the general projection in the public is that they are responsible for corruption, and I said that is a perception. A perception has to be proven whether it is a fact or not. In order for that to be proved I can have an impression of anybody but I would need to substantiate my perception or view with facts. In regard to them, they will have to be charged in a court of law and be found guilty for the crimes that they might be accused of. This is what I have said.
Mr Dlamini: In the public opinion they are perceived, and you are saying that can’t be correct according to your own opinion, because this is not a fact?
Mr Martins: No. I can’t give a judgement on public opinion. So I am saying that is a perception currently.
Mr Dlamini: You are saying that is a perception, and perception must be proved. Now let’s go to 32.10, you are saying again “They are perceived to be billionaires”. I am putting it to you that it is not a perception because it is your friends, you want to go that way. On the results of the 10 richest people in South Africa in 2016 Atul Gupta is number seven with R10.7 billion. That is no longer a perception. So why do you say they are perceived to be billionaires when Atul is no longer a perception?
Mr Martins: No. You should not impose your views on me. If you believe the report you have read that they are billionaires, I have not read the report. I don’t know the scientific veracity of the report that you have read. My reason for saying this is a perception is that I have not seen any member of the Guptas’ bank statement to see how much they are worth. So I can’t say that they are billionaires, or millionaires, or that they are poor. From what I have seen, I can’t categorise them as poor people, but I can’t say they are billionaires.
Mr Dlamini: You served with me in the Portfolio Committee of Public Works. Am I Honourable Dlamini?
Mr Martins: I did. Sometimes you are Honourable Dlamini, sometimes your behavior is not honourable.
Mr Dlamini: Let’s leave my behavior. Am I Dlamini?
Mr Martins: Yes your surname is Dlamini.
Mr Dlamini: How do you know that?
Mr Martins: Because there is a record of the Portfolio Committee.
Mr Dlamini: Have you read it?
Mr Martins: Yes. I have seen your name there as a member of the Committee. It states there that you represent the EFF.
Mr Dlamini: You know, it is disappointing that you guys went to Robben Island and have cadre experience. But to do the things that you are doing is a disappointment, and it is not happiness. I know that your arrogance and your ego tells you that you are doing the wrong thing but it is not the right thing. Actually we are very disappointed because you are people that we thought “at least there is a few”. All the things that I have asked you demonstrate that they are billionaires, that’s why you are going to perceive that they are billionaires. I am saying to you to that it’s there, it is written but you choose not to agree with that. Let me just ask you my final question.
Mr Martins: Before you ask me your final question sir, I have got the right to reply to what you have just said.
Mr Dlamini: Okay reply.
Mr Martins: You have to substantiate the issues that you refer to. You have not substantiated anything in regard to your accusations that you make about me. There is a simple principle in law, he or she who alleges must prove. You have made allegations here and you would like the public to believe that the allegations you make are fact. They are nothing more than simple mere allegations which you have failed to prove.
Mr Dlamini: But I am sticking to them for the fact that it is problematic that you can go and have Gupta curry and the next day you arrange meetings.
Mr Martins: That’s your view.
Mr Dlamini: That’s fine. It is my view but it remains as such. Now, my final question
The Chairperson: Honourable Dlamini your time is up.
Mr Dlamini: So I can’t ask the question.
The Chairperson: No you can’t.
Mr Dlamini: But it’s fine because I won’t get an answer.
Mr S Swart (ACDP): Deputy Minister, I am trying to ascertain the two meetings held with Tony Gupta and Duduzane Zuma. When you had your press conference you referred to one meeting, and you didn’t refer to the second meeting. Was that just an omission from your side as far as far as memory is concerned because it is quite distinctive that there were two meetings with yourself and Mr Lucky Montana?
Mr Martins: With regard to the press engagement, at a press engagement you will be asked a question and you would answer as fully as you think it is necessary and relevant to the question you were asked. So you don’t look at all the factors if I understand you correctly. The answer that I gave on the day I thought was adequate for the question posed.
Mr Swart: One does appreciate that when one refers to those meetings it is a number of years ago and therefore ones memory might not be very accurate. But when Mr Montana, and again one will need to decide on the weight to be attributed to his evidence. We have been criticized for not further cross examining on Prasa yesterday, and as the Chair indicated that was not the function of this inquiry. But one of the issues he does raise and maybe I can just alert you to that, is the first meeting where there was in your version a discussion about the board prior to Mr Gupta and Mr Zuma arriving. He is very adamant that “We had a conversation there and we had a tea party there. We were joined 30 minutes later by the two gentlemen and the Deputy Minister claimed in his media briefing that we had met to discuss the board of Prasa. This is not true”. On your version you say you had met to discuss the Prasa board. Is that still your version because we have two contradicting versions of the first meeting?
Mr Martins: In regard to the first meeting, from what I recall the issue of Prasa was raised, and the issue of engagement with Tony Gupta was also raised.
Mr Swart: You indicate that the Prasa board was discussed before the arrival of those two gentlemen.
Mr Martins: In my engagement with Mr Montana, that was discussed.
Mr Swart: Mr Montana takes a strong view and he says “This is not true”. His version is “I had no business to discuss the appointment of the board of Prasa with the Guptas. The Minister had introduced them to me and said they had expressed an interest in the Prasa Rolling Stock fleet renewal programme”, so I appreciate that there is a difference of opinion in what was said there and we are not going to take that any further. You say in that first meeting that at the time there was talk and rumours, and you go on, so you whole version on page 32.1 of the whole discussion is that the first meeting related to the Prasa board and the possibility of him being removed. That seems to be more consistent with the later event, and one appreciates that time has lapsed but latter when the letter was sent to you and there was concerns about the board meeting. One might have a lapse in memory, do you think that is possible from your side?
Mr Martins: I think that’s a possibility. As I said, I have not had the opportunity to go to the records, or look at files, even in the meetings that I had with Mr Montana to discuss the allegations that there was pressure for them to be removed from their positions, I didn’t take notes of those meetings so I can’t say I have got the records.
Mr Swart: And that would be a reasonable explanation given the time lapse and would be more consistent with Mr Montana’s version of the meeting where this multibillion rand tender is discussed. He then goes to Berlin and is shocked about the news in Berlin where you refer to it as “misrepresentation” which is a ground for fraud, that he says here, “The Guptas were extorting money from manufacturers and had wanted this money to be paid in an account in Dubai, and then the manufacturers were apparently summonsed to a meeting in Zurich with Salim Essa”. You wouldn’t have knowledge of that, but it was at this meeting they were instructed to pay monies if they wanted to get a share of the Prasa new build programme. “I was so furious at this, and saw this as extortion”. Then he comes back, and that’s the second meeting that takes place. He called you and requested you to convene a meeting with Mr Duduzane Zuma and Mr Tony Gupta. He went to your house, they were there, and the third gentleman you gave the name. You spoke at length at this meeting and you both condemned the conduct there. What is very interesting here is Mr Montana says, “They were arrogant and reminded Mr Martins (you) that they did not want me (Mr Montana). But he (you) had convinced them that he (Mr Montana) was your comrade after an hour of fighting”. Do you remember that part at all of the meeting, again bearing in mind that it took place a long time ago? Would you agree that it was an acrimonious meeting?
Mr Martins: All I know is that it was an acrimonious meeting.
Mr Swart: I appreciate the time lapse, so you may actually have forgotten that it actually did occur. Would you agree with that?
Mr Martins: That’s possible.
Mr Swart: He says “After an hour of fighting, they ultimately relented, but after they had accused me (Mr Montana) of favouring Bombardier over other companies, I rejected the accusation very strongly”. You said that the meeting was acrimonious and that brought the discussion to an end. So it is quite possible that Mr Montana is correct in his version. It was an acrimonious meeting, you might not recall specifically that Mr Gupta saying, “But we didn’t want Mr Lucky Montana. We warned you about him”. You might not remember that being said, although that is quite a severe statement. You would remember that being said.
Mr Martins: It is quite a severe statement. I don’t recall it being said at that meeting in my presence.
Mr Swart: If one looks at the picture of what one sees with state capture, you see a pattern developing of certain people, certain CEOs / Ministers taking positions, and when they are not compliant, they have been moved out of the way, and it seems as I said, we haven’t, and I want to categorise this because I have also been criticized in the media, we haven’t interrogated the whole issue of Prasa so I am not commenting on the character of Mr Montana. At this stage there is nothing to disbelieve him on this meeting, but it does seem to play into the narrative of Ministers been deployed, that you did meet the Guptas at their home, and that there was this meeting. And whilst you don’t have a correct recollection of everything, there doesn’t seem at this stage to be anything to disbelieve Mr Lucky Montana about the pressure that was brought to bear upon him. Would you tend to agree on that?
Mr Martins: Yes.
Mr Swart: And that’s fair enough because as I say it is a long time ago and it does play into, because again when people are not cooperative the next step would be to remove them from the board, and that is where the second element came in, the removal from the board and the strong letters, and that’s where you said, “The board will not be moved. They are in the middle of this project” and you took a very strong standpoint, commendably. Would you agree that there is already a pattern at this early stage although you wouldn’t have known it? With hindsight now you can see a pattern developing of board members being moved to satisfy a certain agenda. Secondly, yourself, when you did not comply with a favour, were you not soon after, a month later, moved from Minister of Transport to Minister of Energy?
Mr Martins: Well, it is correct that a month after that I was moved from Transport and made Minister of Energy.
Mr Swart: So what I said yesterday to Mr Montana is that had we all been more focused on being more aware we would not be in the situation today, possibly speculating, that we are sitting with Eskom and other SOEs. Would you think in hindsight that would be a fair observation?
Mr Martins: I think if we analyse and look at all these issues with the benefit of hindsight we would be able to see certain trends, other postulates might be confirmed, other postulates might not be confirmed. But as you correctly say, there is nobody that I know of at this stage who has looked at the trajectory and the phenomena that you have highlighted here, and that would be necessary to be done.
Mr Swart: I think there has been quite a bit of research, but I think you correctly say that at that stage the family was not well known so you had nothing to respond to. What I don’t understand, and I have known you for many years, I can’t explain because Ms Daniels presented her evidence, and there is a total denial from you with backing up evidence that you weren’t there. Is it possible that you confused the date because you denied any meeting with her?
Mr Martins: With regard to Ms Suzanne Daniels, I have had meetings with her. We should recall that she is the Company Secretary of Eskom. She is also holding the position of the Legal Adviser of Eskom, so in the remit of her responsibilities, there is interaction between the board members of Eskom, the Chair of Eskom, and the previous Chair Eskom she advised very closely – Dr Ben Ngubane. And when there were issues concerning the payments due or not due to Mr Brian Molefe, we had occasion for the two legal teams of Eskom and the Department to discuss and get clarity on the legal matters concerning Mr Brian Molefe. So in that context I did meet her.
Mr Swart: What is your relationship with Ms Daniels, your working relationship?
Mr Martins: My working relationship is fine. She is a person that I have only met in the context of the responsibilities I assumed. I don’t know her at a personal level, I don’t have any reason to have a grudge or something against her. But in the context of the ministerial engagements with Eskom, and her role, we spoke, and some of the conversations in trying to advice the Minister, obviously when you have two legal teams and they differ, we would be able to come in.
Mr Swart: She alleges that the whole meeting related to that specific Molefe issue, and you said in your press statement “As Head of Legal you admit to admonishing her in the past, and secondly, you called her a clueless ignoramus”. Do you still hold to that view that she is a clueless ignoramus?
Mr Martins: I think in regard to the first portion of what you stated, in regard to her responsibilities, in the meetings that we held with the Chairperson and the Minister, and in regard to some of the decisions that she had taken as Company Secretary and Legal Adviser to Eskom, I differed and pointed out certain things there. In relation to the issue of clueless ignoramus, you have to read that sentence in context.
Mr Swart: Can I read it to you?
Mr Martins: Yes. The entire sentence and what precedes that.
Mr Swart proceeded to read the press statement.
Mr Swart: Do you think that’s what she did in her evidence here?
Mr Martins: I believe that there are issues that she could better attest to and give clarity on. One of the issues from the top of my head, I think in May sometime she came to the Portfolio Committee as the Head of Legal, and as Company Secretary, and the Brian Molefe issue was discussed here in regard to payments, and there is a version of events she gave to the Committee. Later on when she comes, her testimony contradicts what she said here.
Mr Swart: I understand that, and just as one might differ on the probabilities, it is a very strong term, and knowing you as a person it is not language that one would use normally. But one does understand, and it is a very strong indictment. Chair, that is the end of my time and questions.
Ms L Mnganga-Gcabashe (ANC): Let’s say for argument’s sake that Ms Daniels might have confused the dates, did such an occasion, be it a tea party, or a tea gathering, or a breakfast, or lunch, or dinner ever take place with the people that she mentioned where you were also in attendance?
Mr Martins: No.
Ms G Nobanda (ANC): Minister, what do you think were Ms Daniels’ reasons for saying you were in a meeting that you believe you were not part of?
Mr Martins: I really don’t know why she would say that.
Ms Nobanda: So Ms Daniels would just somehow make up this date, this time, this meeting with yourself and Mr Ajay Gupta, Duduzane ‘Gupta’ where you all discussed Brian Molefe’s payment, according to you?
Mr Martins: As I said, I can’t answer for her, but from my perspective I don’t know why she would have said that. I can tell you that I have had a meeting with her, the DG, and others at my house where the legal teams were trying to find a way of dealing with the issue around Mr Brian Molefe.
Ms Nobanda: Have you ever met or do you know Mr Salim Essa?
Mr Martins: I have seen Mr Salim Essa. But he is not a person that I know closely. But I know that he is a business associate of Mr Gupta.
Ms Nobanda: You have never had a meeting with him, beside Tony Gupta?
Mr Martins: No.
Ms Nobanda: Thank you, Chair.
Dr Z Luyenge (ANC): Deputy Minister I would want to get explanations for a number of issues but ask a few. One is that as a senior member of the ANC, knowing it for a fact that there are resolutions taken by the NGCs, by NEC for the rooting out of corruption and corrupt elements within the government machinery, and Parliament is actually implementing that. How best can you assist that process at your level?
Mr Martins: The responsibility that everyone has in a position in government, whatever the role that you occupy is to ensure that you do not condone corrupt practices, that you do not enter into corrupt practices, that you ensure in the space that you are responsible for that the principles of clean government are adhered to.
Dr Luyenge: If all what has been said by Mr Montana yesterday is anything to go by, he put it very clearly to the country the perception out there that in the looting of state resources, there is this particular family of the Guptas that is actually behind those elements, in fact perpetuated by certain leaders and members of the community including leaders of the ANC. A mention of our prominent leader has been made even though not necessarily linked to the Gupta family. As a senior member of the ANC, what is it that you can do to assist this process? Ensuring that what Mr Montana was saying is not just something if it is proved beyond reasonable doubt that those prominent leaders of the ANC whose names were mentioned have contributed to this quagmire. What can you say, what can you do as a senior member of the ANC?
Mr Martins: Honourable member, with due respect, I don’t regard myself as a senior member of the ANC. I don’t sit on the NEC, I don’t sit on any other important structure. I am an ordinary branch member. But I understand the tone, and timbre, and context in which you say it. All I would say is that the members of the Gupta family have been mentioned, but the most important thing for me is for somebody to lay a charge so that there can be a follow up of a court case. Right now I don’t have knowledge of people who have gone to lay charges, perhaps they have done so. It would be important that those cases be expedited so that anybody who has transgressed, who has broken the law should be taken to court without fear or favour. I did say earlier that I did not have the privilege of being here yesterday to listen to the entire testimony of comrade, Mr Lucky Montana. I did hear the mention of ANC senior leaders. If that is the case I would reemphasize the basic principle that nobody is above the law. If I have broken the law, if any ANC official has broken the law, then the people with the relevant information should ensure that those people are charged because if they are not charged in their personal capacity, then it lends to the narrative that the ANC is corrupt. The ANC cannot be corrupt. Individual members who abuse their positions in the ANC can be corrupt. That is a responsibility for all members to ensure that those who are engaged in corruption are brought to book.
Dr Luyenge: Thank you. You are talking like a senior leader, not a senior member. But the necessity is that being appointed by the ANC to be a Deputy Minister and Minister, you are definitely a senior member trusted within the ranks of the ANC. It is necessary that I say that. Do you know a certain Zodwa Manase who is a Risk Manager?
Mr Martins: The name of Ms Zodwa Manase rings a bell in my mind. If I am not wrong she is a chartered accountant.
Dr Luyenge: Is there any moment when you actually differed with the leadership at Transport when Mr Montana was rejecting approaches to reject supply chain policy, and if that is the case how did you assist him? On the wedding plane coming from abroad, can the plane land anywhere?
Mr Martins: In my workings with officials I have said it very clearly to them that nobody should be in a position to compel them to do anything that is irregular or untoward in regard to their responsibilities. That is a point that I have made in all the departments that I have served. I have even said to staff members or officials that your responsibility is not to carry out the instruction of Ministers willy-nilly, your responsibility is based on your qualifications and integrity. So your responsibility is to give the best advice. After having given that advice, whether the Minister agrees with your advice or not, you should be able to sleep with a clear conscience that you have given the requisite advice. In regard to the landing of planes, there is paperwork that has to be filled in based on the capacity, the size of the plane as to where they can land, and necessary permission has to be sought from the Air Traffic and Navigation Services authority. So they deal with those authorisations.
Dr Luyenge: Did you play any role in the acquisition of the landing rights by the Gupta family in relationship to the wedding?
Mr Martins: No. As I said earlier, the remit of my responsibility as the Minister of Transport was for civil aviation – aeroplanes – but in regard to the military aspect, I had no role there. That fell under the remit of the responsibility of the Department of Defence. They are responsible for Waterkloof. So as to how that plane landed there, I was not consulted.
Dr Luyenge: I rest my case Chair.
Mr R Tseli (ANC): Let me indicate upfront that I have a problem with a meeting that is arranged at your residence with people who have business interests. You even go the extent of inviting the CEO to that meeting, and you want the Committee to believe that this was an official meeting and not a private meeting. A direct question maybe, why was it not necessary for the DG to be part of that meeting?
Mr Martins: In none of my submissions, nor did I ever say that was an official meeting. I stated it was meeting at my residence.
Mr Tseli: So it was a private meeting?
Mr Martins: Yes. It was a meeting that I facilitated between Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Lucky Montana. The purpose was to get that information that he required.
Mr Tseli: The reason I am talking about private and official, I wanted to understand if this meeting was convened in your capacity as a Minister.
Mr Martins: The issue is that if you are a Minister it is difficult to say if I convene this meeting, I convene it in my personal capacity or I convene it as a Minister. My conceptualisation of that meeting is that it was convened by the Minister of Transport. I was the Minister of Transport, but it was an informal meeting at my residence.
Mr Tseli: In May 2013 you refused to give permission to the Gupta family for the plane to land at OR International, and in May the same year you are deployed from Transport to the Department of Energy. Will you disagree with people who say these two events are not related?
Mr Martins: I cannot say that the two events are not related. I can only go back to the issue that it is the President who decides who is a Minister or who is not a Minister. My understanding is that you serve at the pleasure of the President, and if he redeploys you, he has the prerogative to disappoint you, in both senses of the word disappoint.
Mr Tseli: Paragraph 30, the food fair organised by the Guptas. I know Ministers to be people whose schedules are very hectic. Here is a family that organises a food fair, Ministers put all their programmes aside, activate their blue lights and go to that. Will you disagree with me if I say this is another indication of an extent to which the family is influential?
Mr Martins: I would say that we need to put things into perspective. Ministers, Deputy Ministers can have busy schedules, but it does not mean that they never have free time. And my recollection about this food fair was it was on a Saturday morning. You decide to go there. You are not compelled to go there. It is not an official function where the Presidency will say that here is a function, this line up of Ministers is required here, or you have to go to some embassy’s national day. Those you can’t avoid.
Mr Tseli: You try to clarify the Lucky Montana issue, the one that he raised yesterday. The impression you created at the press briefing that he introduced the Guptas to you, and now you clarified it very well today that you introduced the Guptas to Lucky, and not the other way around. Can you clarify just for the record because from what Lucky was saying yesterday, the impression he has is that he introduced the Guptas to you.
Mr Martins: What I did say at the press conference is that one of the occasions at which I met members of the Gupta family, I cited the issue concerning Prasa, and at that press conference I said “I Dikobe Ben Martins organised the interaction between Mr Tony Gupta and Mr Lucky Montana”. But somewhere along the line what he understood or perhaps what somebody told him about the press conference was, “It was said that you Lucky Montana took the Guptas to Dikobe Ben Martins” which was not the case.
Mr Tseli: At the meeting that Lucky requested when he came back from Berlin to show his displeasure about the Guptas using the name of the President and the two of you, you even indicated today that you reprimanded them for their conduct. How did they respond?
Mr Martins: Obviously they were very defensive and saying that it was an untruth, and Lucky said, “But the people I engaged in my various meetings overseas said that this is what you sought to do”. So he was very strong and forthright in regard to that point.
Mr Tseli: A number of people have raised concerns including those who came before the Committee to testify, they have raised concerns about the influence of the family in government particular in the awarding of tenders. Do you think people have reason to be worried about this influence?
Mr Martins: I think reasonably anybody would have reason to be concerned if they had to look at the tender records of various state departments and found that there was normally a particular company that belongs to particular people.. That would be a cause for worry. Just like if there are Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) projects to be given, and they are always given to the same people, then there is something wrong there.
The Chairperson: I also just want to set the record straight, Honourable Tseli’s question as responded by the Deputy Minister. Mr Lucky Montana said he was introduced to the Guptas by the Deputy Minister. The Deputy Minister called him in a meeting where the Gupta family was present so it’s not Montana introducing the Deputy Minister to the Guptas.
The Chairperson welcomed Mr N Singh (IFP) back to South Africa and the Committee. This was his first appearance in the Committee since 2017.
Mr Singh: Thank you very much ma’am. I apologise for not being here, but we’ve got a very capable alternative here, Honourable Swart. We’ve been busy dealing with other matters of state which will impact on us next week.
The Chairperson: Thank you very much for that clarification and your apology has been accepted.
Mr Gungubele: Maybe you can check the Hansard or whatever. My understanding of Honourable Tseli was that he was articulating the response of Montana based on his perception of the situation. He was not saying what Montana said, and I think we should go to the Hansard.
The Chairperson: We will do that. Deputy Minister, the statement that you made in the press conference, I want to bring it to your attention that this Committee found it insulting to the Committee and to the work of the Committee especially when you said this Committee works as a kangaroo court. It was very insulting and it also disturbed us a Committee because we are a Committee that you belong to. You are Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises, we are the Committee of Public Enterprises, a Committee constituted in Parliament and a constitutional body. Our terms of reference, Deputy Minister, were very clear. Our principle has always been the same, and we said it again and again, that if you are implicated you must come forward. You will be given a chance to respond to what you are implicated in. I think, Deputy Minister, even if you won’t see it befitting now, I think you owe us an apology as this Committee because when we took this decision of taking the inquiry forward we had your blessing that I can assure you. You assured us you will be behind us in the process but to our dismay and disappointment you uttered such words in public instead of coming to us because we are your your children as the Committee. We work with you, we want to work with you going forward.
Mr Gungubele: We are not the Minister’s children. We can’t!
Mr Dlamini: We are not his children.
Chairperson: We are not your children Minister. It is just a Xhosa phrase that maybe I took it from Xhosa as it is and put it in English, and people who understand English more than me took it the other way. We are not your children literally. Deputy Minister, according to South African law you cannot be charged for meeting the Guptas. We are going to be meeting the Guptas, and I am looking forward to meeting the Guptas, and I am sure that for us to meet the Guptas as this Committee we are not doing any criminal act. We are looking forward to working with you in developing the country, and also in fighting corruption in government and in the governing party, and thanks for letting us have an interaction with you.
Mr Martins: With your kind permission, Chair. I would humbly ask the Portfolio Committee to privilege me with a copy of the letter where I said this Committee is a kangaroo court. I have never ever said this Committee is a kangaroo court.
The Chairperson: Thank you,Deputy Minister. We do not have a letter but it is what came out of the media statements that you made. For now the Committee stands adjourned.