Former ANN7 editor Rajesh Sundaram has detailed how the Gupta family and their associates bypassed normal procedures with the help of former President Jacob Zuma’s office when they secured visas for him and his colleagues who were brought into the country to set up the television channel in 2013.
On Monday morning, Sundaram took the stand at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture where he started off by detailing his recruitment as the consulting editor for the now defunct ANN7, which was officially known as Infinity Media Nertworks.
Sundaram, an Indian national, said he was surprised when his visa application was quickly expedited in a matter of a day.
He said following his decision to take up the position to head ANN7, after being approached by one Laxmi Goel who was a shareholder in the company, he had decided to do internet research in preparation for doing a visa application, as he would have to soon move to South Africa.
He said he had learn through his research that a position had to be advertised in South Africa if there was no suitable person who could fill it and that he would have to have a work permit in order to secure the job.
“I thought it would take a long time for the work permit to be issued and I asked Mr Laxmi Goel about it. He said it would be done within no time. He asked to get a yellow fever vaccine and security clearance from a local police station and a medical certificate from a government doctor.
“I was also told that the procedure for the visas would bypass the normal procedure,” Sundaram said.
He said he was told that alleged Gupta fixer Ashu Chawla would assist in quickly securing the visas.
“I was told that the president’s office would then direct me to relevant departments to expedite the visas and also bypass some of the requirements. I found to my surprise that my visa was cleared fairly quickly in a matter of a day. I submitted the documents, but I was not interviewed at all at any point, nor do I remember my other colleagues being interviewed by any officials at the SA commission in New Delhi,”he said.
In 2018 Sundaram released a book in which he implicated Zuma in having had a direct had setting up the channel, including coming up with the ANN7 name.
Advocate Thandi Norman, who is leading Sundaram’s testimony, said of all the 14 persons implicated by Sundaram’s evidence, only former home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni had responded to the notices sent to them, as required by the terms of reference of the commission.