Former editor of TV news channel ANN7, Rajesh Sundaram, has told the judicial commission on inquiry into allegations of state capture that Gupta associate Ashu Chawla used his influence to bypass procedures to help him obtain his work permits.

Sundaram was testifying before inquiry chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Monday. 

He said before he came to South Africa, he did research on how to obtain a visa.

But when he realised that it was going to take a while for him to obtain one, Infinity media shareholder Laxmi Goel told him that they had a “setting with the high office in South Africa” and that the visa would be done in no time.

LIVE: Atul instructed ANN7 to ‘hire models’ because journalists refused to work with Guptas – Sundaram at #StateCaptureInquiry

He said Goel instructed him to submit a yellow fever vaccine, police clearance and a medical certificate.

He told the commission that he was told that the visas would “bypass the normal procedure” and that the details would be sent to Chawla, who would then speak to the high office in South Africa.

“I was told that the president’s office who would then direct to the relevant department to expedite the visas and also bypassed some of the requirements that we needed.

“I found, to my surprise, that my visa was cleared fairly quickly within a matter of a day.

“They had gone in there, submitted the documents. I didn’t have to go there personally. I was not interviewed at all at any point…” 

Propaganda

Sundaram arrived in the country shortly after the Guptas’ infamous Sun City wedding six years ago and was appointed the editor of Infinity Media Networks, ANN7’s official name.

Sundaram, also the author of Indentured – Behind the Scenes at Gupta TV, which detailed former president Jacob Zuma’s direct hand in the creation of the now defunct news channel.

He revealed that a few weeks later, he briefed Zuma himself on the virtues and value propositions of Africa News Network 7, a name chosen by Zuma. 

The experienced journalist, tasked with giving the channel a running start, also told the commission that he regretted setting up a news channel which was used by the “mafia” for “propaganda”. 

He said the channel was more of a propaganda station than a professional one for news.  

The hearing continues.

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