South African President Jacob Zuma in 2010 told the then head of government communications to meet the Gupta family and when he complied he was asked by them to direct government advertising to their newspaper, Johannesburg’s Sunday Times reported, citing Themba Maseko, who was then Chief Executive Officer of the Government Communications Information System.
Zuma has said the Gupta family are his friends. They are in business with his son Duduzane and his links to them have drawn criticism from opposition parties and labor unions. Last week Mcebisi Jonas, the deputy finance minister, said he was offered the job of finance chief by members of the Gupta family. According to the Constitution only South Africa’s president can appoint ministers.
Maseko said Ajay Gupta, one of three brothers who run the family business, told him in the meeting that if government ministers refused to advertise in the newspaper he would contact the ministers, according to the Sunday Times. Ajay Gupta later called him and when Maseko refused to meet him he was told he would be replaced, the newspaper said. Maseko said while he was removed from his position in 2011 its unclear to him whether the loss of his job was related to this, the newspaper reported.
A call to the mobile phone of Bongani Majola, Zuma’s spokesman, was cut off after a few rings. Yolanda Zondo, a spokeswoman for Gupta’s Oakbay group of companies, didn’t answer a call to her mobile phone or immediately reply to a message left on the phone. An e-mail to Oakbay wasn’t immediately responded to outside of normal office hours. Maseko couldn’t immediately be contacted.
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