While director-general at the department of public enterprises, former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona, tried to persuade South African Airways to support the now defunct The New Age (TNA) newspaper after the national carrier’s bid adjudication committee turned it down, former SAA board chairperson Cheryl Carolus testified before the state capture commission on Thursday.
Then CEO Sizakele Mzimela had established a bid adjudication committee to ensure fairness and transparency in tender processes, and opted not to subscribe to the newspaper as it did not meet the business criteria for SAA, she said. Carolus received a phone call from Matona from the public enterprises department, led by ex-minister Malusi Gigaba at the time.
Matona requested a meeting with her saying that the SAA bid adjudication committee handled the newspaper subscription decision unsatisfactorily. Carolus said she was reluctant to meet the former Eskom boss and inquired from Mzimela what the matter was all about. The former CEO told Carolus she did not have any information as she was not involved in the bid adjudication process.
“I never got to know the details of that matter because it was the work of that committee, just as Ms Mzimela, I never got involved in the work of the committee. Myself and Ms Mzimela met with Matona, and there was Gigaba’s legal adviser Mr Mahlangu there too. I told Matona I had no interest in newspaper buying,” she said.
Matona told her that as a new media house, TNA — established by the fugitive Gupta family in 2010 — needed to be supported.
“He said TNA was [a] new entrant in [the] media scene and that media diversity should be supported. I told him that was laudable, but me and Ms Mzimela were actually upset that we had to drop everything we were doing only to be told about newspapers.”
Commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo told Carolus that according to former government spokesman Jimmy Manyi, he ordered directors general to buy advertisement at TNA while at the helm at GCIS.
“Maybe Mr Matona also got the directive as issued by Mr Manyi to support TNA,” said Zondo.
Carolus said SAA never took part in TNA business breakfasts as management believed that “spending millions in of taxpayers’ money on breakfasts was not their mandate”.
Matona had only been the power utility’s CEO for seven months when the board suspended him, and then booted him out. At the time, former president Jacob Zuma told Matona he was earmarked to lead the National Planning Commission.
African News Agency