State capture inquiry: SAA pressured to advertise in The New Age
Zondo commission hears explosive testimony from former SAA board chairperson Cheryl Carolus
Former SAA board chairperson Cheryl Carolus has described how senior officials from the public enterprises department - headed by Malusi Gigaba at the time - lobbied for the airline to advertise in the Gupta-owned The New Age newspaper.
Carolus, who served as board chairperson between 2009 and 2012, told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday that she, along with the airline’s chief executive, Siza Mzimela, had been summoned to a meeting with then public enterprises director-general Tshediso Matona.
The meeting came after SAA’s bid adjudication committee had turned down a deal to advertise with TNA because the newspaper did not meet the airline’s criteria.
“I got a call from then DG Tshediso Matona requesting an urgent meeting to discuss this matter. I indicated I had no interest and no authority. He said it was a matter that management had not handled satisfactorily... I called [Mzimela]. I said: 'Do you know anything about the matter?' She then briefed me about her own knowledge about it which was not wholesome,” Carolus said.
When the pair arrived at the meeting, they found Matona with Gigaba’s legal adviser, Siyabonga Mahlangu. Carolus said it was “most peculiar” that Mahlangu was present.
“[Matona] explained that the TNA is a new entrant in the media scene and he thought that to encourage media diversity, TNA should receive some support,” Carolus said.
“What we were being asked had a financial implication. SAA spends money as far as newspapers are concerned to create visibility for the airline... TNA was new and whilst one had a sympathy for diversity, there was a state entity to help new entrants into the market.”