Gigaba brings controversial advisers to Treasury

Cape Town – Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s new advisers at Treasury have controversial backgrounds, with one having alleged links to the Guptas.

Gigaba’s spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete tweeted on Tuesday that the minister’s advisers are Thamsanqa Msomi, who will focus on political issues, and Kholeka Gcaleka, who will focus on legal issues.

Msomi is a Denel board member who was “implicated by two highly placed sources as being ... close to the Gupta family”, according to a report in Mail & Guardian in March 2016.

“Msomi said he has not met with any of the Guptas since his appointment to the Denel board,” the report explained early in 2016.

The 2015/16 annual report lists Msomi as a board member of Denel, which took Treasury to court in March 2017 to legalise its pending venture between Denel and Gupta-linked VR Laser.

Former finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, who was seen as trying to stall the venture, lambasted Denel for taking Treasury to court.

Mail & Guardian reported on Saturday that “amid speculation that the Guptas captured the new Denel board, Gordhan described them as ‘arrogant and belligerent’”.

The paper reported that Gordhan and officials at Treasury were the only stumbling block to the venture being approved.

Denel has taken Treasury to court over Gupta-linked deal

“The Asian-Pacific region is an extremely important region for Denel to expand its business and find new markets for our world-class products, especially in the fields of artillery, armoured vehicles, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles,” said acting Denel CEO Zwelakhe Ntshepe in a statement.

"In spite of the company’s numerous attempts to work with National Treasury to explain the legal processes followed in establishing the Denel Asia joint venture, this matter remains unresolved and continues to unfairly cast doubt on Denel’s reputation and governance regime," Denel said on 24 March 2017.

Since the new board took over in 2016, Denel registered as a partner an Asian subsidiary, Denel Asia, in Hong Kong in January 2016 with VR Laser, a company with strong Gupta ties. The company is owned by Gupta business partner Salim Essa, and one of the Gupta brothers’ sons sits on its board.

Gigaba knows Guptas, but they don't influence him

The South African Communist Party said it believes Gigaba was appointed as Finance minister for his links to the Guptas.

However, Gigaba said on Tuesday that while he has met the Guptas, they don't influence the decisions he makes, Fin24 Lameez Omarjee reported.

“As I meet many other business people, it does not mean I have a relationship with them,” he said following a question from Fin24 during a press conference. “Meeting someone does not mean they have an impact on your decisions. Ultimately I take my own decisions.”

He said that he has visited the family, and celebrated Diwali with them, as he has celebrated other religious events hosted by other people at their homes. “But these things do not impact on my ability to take decisions,” he reiterated.

Simelane supporter

The other adviser, Gcaleka was embroiled in controversy in 2010 when she claimed that the Society of State Advocates of South Africa unequivocally supported the “courageous transformation agenda” of Menzi Simelane, who was appointed head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in 2009.

Gcaleka was also part of the prosecuting team that replaced Gerrie Nel in the prosecution of Glenn Agliotti for the murder of mining magnate Brett Kebble. Agliotti was let off by the court, as the team did not provide a solid case.

As chair of the society, Gcaleka was quoted saying that “no concerns had been raised with Simelane about the proposed closure of the specialised commercial crime unit, the asset forfeiture unit and other units”, a June 2010 report in the Mail & Guardian explained.

Two senior state attorneys of the society resigned in protest.

NPA capture?

Business Day believes President Jacob Zuma started the process of capturing the NPA by securing Simelane as the National Director of Public Prosecutions, a move that eventually backfired.

“Concerted legal action, brought by the DA, saw him declared unfit to hold the office,” its editorial said in March 2017.

In its Constitutional Court judgment, Justice Yacoob wrote: “The contradictions reflect on Mr Simelane’s credibility, integrity and conscientiousness.”

When Des van Rooyen brought two advisers into the Treasury for his weekend stint in December 2015, they were criticised in the media for links to the Guptas.

BizNews reported in 2016 that insiders believed the two advisers - Ian Whitley and Mohamed Bobat - were allied to the Gupta family.  

“When appointed to the National Treasury, the minister called upon Mr Bobat as a result of the latter’s extensive network in the investment banking industry,” Van Rooyen said in a statement in response to the story.

“The minister is satisfied that Mr Bobat also has the requisite qualifications and experience for appointment,” he said.

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