Free State bought 4,000 copies a day of Gupta newspaper, Zondo probe told

Elzabe Rockman, who has been implicated in wrongdoing regarding the Estina farm project, told the Zondo commission about 'engagements with [Gupta executives] Nazeem Hawa and Ashok Narayan'.
Elzabe Rockman, who has been implicated in wrongdoing regarding the Estina farm project, told the Zondo commission about 'engagements with [Gupta executives] Nazeem Hawa and Ashok Narayan'.
Image: Alon Skuy

State capture-implicated former Free State finance MEC Elizabeth "Elzabe" Rockman detailed to the state capture inquiry on Wednesday various meetings she had with members of the Gupta family and The New Age executives while she worked in then-premier Ace Magashule's office.

Rockman, who is accused of wrongdoing relating to the controversial Estina dairy farm project in Vrede, worked as a director-general in Magashule's office between September 2010 and March 2013 when she joined the legislature.

She told the commission that she first met members of the Gupta family in August 2011.

"... The New Age newspaper (owned by the Gupta family) made a presentation to the provincial executive committee to get support for advertisements.

"My engagements were mostly with [CEO] Nazeem Hawa and Ashok Narayan," she said.

"In August 2011, I was on the way to an executive committee meeting in Bethlehem. I was informed that I was to meet people from The New Age. I was called by the premier (Ace Magashule). They wanted to meet before the exco started ... I don't know who organised the logistics of the meeting.

"They presented a proposal where we should enter into a subscription agreement from The New Age. One of the Gupta brothers was present but I can't remember which one."

She said it was "not strange" for people outside government to arrive at venues where executive committee meetings were being held.

"The idea was that the office of the premier would enter into the subscription agreement on behalf of all departments," she said.

Magashule's office thereafter agreed to purchase 4,000 copies of The New Age (TNA) per day.

Rockman said she met the brothers again at a TNA business breakfast in May 2012 in Bloemfontein and again in December that year at the ANC's national conference.

"They were in the environment; it was not like they were not known and nobody ever engaged with them," she said.

Rockman also visited the family at their Saxonwold home in April 2013.

"It was after I had left as director-general when I was appointed MEC of finance. The purpose of that meeting was to say what are the arrangements now that you are no longer there (at the premier's office) in relation to the TNA subscriptions ... and it was the outstanding payment to Vrede dairy for the 2012/2013 financial year. We had owed them money," she said.

Her testimony is continuing.

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