Former Minister Denies Claims That Zuma Instructed Him To Assist Guptas With Waterkloof Landing

The former minister of transport, Ben Martins, told the commission of inquiry into state capture that former president Jacob Zuma did not give him an instruction to assist the Gupta family with landing their aeroplane at the at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Martins served in the portfolio from 2012 to 2013.

The commission of inquiry into state capture chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo will on Tuesday hear evidence into the Gupta family’s April 30, 2013, aeroplane landing at Waterkloof Air Force Base.

Martins further told the commission that he had not issued any instruction that the Gupta family should be assisted with landing at the air force base.

Martins said no one had approached him on the Gupta’s landing at Waterkloof, a matter which he learned about through reports in the media.

He said an official at Air Traffic and Navigation Services (ATNS) had informed him that an aeroplane had entered South African airspace without the prerequisite permit. The said aeroplane was the jet carrying guests who were attending a Gupta wedding that year.

Martins told the commission that a fine of R82, 000 was to be imposed because the aeroplane was in the country without the correct papers.

The former minister said it was the “first and only time that I recall a plane being reported in that nature”.

Martins was also questioned whether he had received an invitation to attend the Gupta wedding, which he said he did, however, he did not attend the ceremony, he told the commission.

Martins said he did not attend the Gupta wedding for two reasons, namely, that at the time he had a personal family commitment and because a committee of ministers of the security cluster had advised against doing so.

Norman also asked Martins if he had interacted with any of the Guptas, to which the former minister said he had “several interactions” with members of the family in 2011 while he served as the deputy minister of public enterprises.

Martins told the commission that he had interacted with Tony and Atul Gupta at the SABC TNA business breakfasts.

He further said that soon after his appointment as minister of transport on June 11, 2012, he received a call from Tony Gupta who raised issues around the tender process at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) for the procurement of locomotives, claiming they had been irregularities.

Martins said Gupta indicated that he was willing to challenge the tender process in court.

The former minister told the commission that his understanding at the time was that Gupta had tendered or wanted to tender at a late stage for the procurement of locomotives.

Martins said by the time he was appointed as minister of transport, the tender had run its course, nearing finality, a matter which he relayed to Gupta, further explaining to the Indian businessman that since he had been recently appointed as a minister, he was not aware of the facts around the tender.

Martins said he further told Gupta that he was well within his legal rights to approach the courts.

The former minister said he also told Gupta to seek clarity around the matter from Prasa CEO Lucky Montana.

Martins said he later organised a meeting between himself, Gupta, and Montana so that the Indian businessman could get clarity on the tender.

Martins told the commission that he did not think there was something untoward about the meeting and that at the meeting he, as the minister, did not ask Montana to irregularly or unlawfully assist Gupta and that the meeting did not result with the businessman being awarded the contract in question.

The former minister also told the commission that he did visit the Gupta’s residence in Saxonwold on two occasions.


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