Fuzile has Judge Zondo laughing at state capture commission

2018-11-22 18:04
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. (Alex Mitchley, News24)

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WATCH LIVE: Lungisa Fuzile continues his testimony at #StateCaptureInquiry

2018-11-22 10:23

Former National Treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile will continue his testimony at the state capture inquiry on Thursday. WATCH.WATCH

The commission of inquiry into state capture is like a court proceeding: serious, lawyerly and often quite sombre because of the weight of evidence about state capture it is turning up almost every day.

But on Thursday, the gallery broke into open giggles and the commission's chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, also started laughing as Standard Bank CEO and former Treasury director general (DG) Lungisa Fuzile recounted the comedy of errors he witnessed when ANC MP Des van Rooyen was made finance minister for two days in December 2015.

The commission has heard testimony of how Van Rooyen arrived at the National Treasury in Pretoria with three advisors, whose appointment was influenced by the Gupta family at the heart of the state capture being probed by the commission.

Van Rooyen was appointed finance minister in December 2015 but lasted in his job for only two days after the markets tanked and the economy lost more than R500bn, according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who also testified before the state capture commission this week.

READ: How Gupta-linked adviser went over Van Rooyen's head – ex-Treasury DG

Fuzile recounted that at Van Rooyen's first meeting with Treasury staff, things got a bit confusing. He arrived at the Treasury with the three officials in tow, even though Fuzile said that ministers usually assessed the skills in their departments before choosing advisors who could fill any gaps.

The three were Trillian advisor Mohamed Bhobat, Ian Whitley (ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte's son-in-law) and Malcolm Mabaso who was a business associate of the Gupta family and was simultaneously an advisor to then Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

Trillian was regarded as owned by the Gupta family; while Zwane's appointment has been proven to be influenced by the family as his CV was found in the #GuptaLeaks emails and was then forwarded to President Zuma.

"During the introductions, it became apparent that Mr van Rooyen was not fully familiar with either of the two gentlemen nor the specific roles he wanted them to play, as they had to correct him on their names and new positions. I recall he said that Mr (Mohamed) Bobat was going to be the chief of staff and Mr Bobat had to correct him that he was going to be advisor….," said Fuzile. 

It was, in fact, Whitley who was to be chief of staff.

READ: #StateCaptureInquiry: Former DG claims he was told he would get a 'Gupta minister'

At this point, Zondo laughed, as did evidence leader Vincent Maleka who sounded perplexed at the antics of the minister who has become known colloquially as "Weekend Special" because he was in office for only a weekend. The National Treasury is known to be a place with an exacting adherence to rules and procedures.

So when Van Rooyen suggested that Mabaso would work without a contract (because he had another job in the public service), Fuzile blew a gasket.

"If there is no contract, you cannot capture a person's details to run salary, leave and everything. I objected to that very firmly. 'I don't think it's going to happen,'" Fuzile told the commission.

"Mr van Rooyen responded in a way that shocked and annoyed me. He said: 'Facilitate this thing. (Mabaso's appointment) You are just a DG.' At that point, I had to remind him that the role of a DG carries more weight than he was insinuating. I found that very disturbing.

"I suggested to all of them that they should familiarise themselves with the Ministerial Handbook (a guide to government rules). I also encouraged Mr van Rooyen to figure out what is allowed and whether there would be a role for Mr Mabaso because the 'just being around' bit was unacceptable," Fuzile told the commission.

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