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09/11/2017 12:50 SAST | Updated 09/11/2017 12:51 SAST

Ben Martins Denies Meeting With Guptas In 'Tea Party'

“She falsely claimed that I had attended a tea party in Johannesburg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma."

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(Photo by Kevin Sutherland/ Sunday Times/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins has denied suspended Eskom head of legal Suzanne Daniels' claim that he and she attended a meeting with Ajay Gupta and Duduzane Zuma in 2017, according to a statement released by the deputy minister.

"I am perplexed by Ms Suzanne Daniels' testimony to the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom," he said in the statement on Thursday.

"She falsely claimed that I had attended a tea party in Johannesburg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma,"

"As the head of Eskom's legal department, Ms Daniels should account to Parliament for what happened under her watch, rather than seek to use the occasion to reinvent herself as a clueless ignoramus."

Daniels on Wednesday alleged that both Ajay Gupta and Salim Essa, on separate occasions, tried to influence decisions related to executives at the power utility.

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Daniels was testifying before the public enterprises committee's inquiry into state capture at Eskom. Daniels told the committee she had been asked to meet with Essa, a friend and close business associate of the Gupta family, at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg on July 29, 2017.

"We went into one of those apartments. As we walked into the lounge area there were four people, of which I was introduced to Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, Deputy Minister [of Public Enterprises] Ben Martins and a Chinese lady, whose name I could not remember," she said.

Full statement by Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins:

"I am perplexed by Ms Suzanne Daniels' testimony to the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom today.

She falsely claimed that I had attended a tea party in Johannesburg with her, Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Salim Essa and Mr Duduzane Zuma.

The truth is that I met Ms Daniels several times in her capacity as Eskom Company Secretary, together with the then Chairperson of Eskom Dr Ben Ngubane, Department of Public Enterprises Director-General Richard Seleke and Minister Lynne Brown in Cape Town and Tshwane to discuss the Brian Molefe matter.

I admit to admonishing Ms Daniels for the governance lapses that had taken place under her watch as the Company Secretary and Legal Advisor at Eskom, during the meetings we had with the Minister of Public Enterprises and Dr Ngubane. My collegial constructive criticism was never meant as a personal attack.

As the head of Eskom's legal department Ms Daniels should account to Parliament for what happened under her watch rather than seek to use the occasion to reinvent herself as clueless ignoramus."