When Barbara Hogan was the minister of public enterprises, then President Jacob Zuma insisted that Siyabonga Gama be appointed as the Transnet chief executive, despite being warned by Hogan that Gama had allegations of misconduct against his name.
This was the explosive testimony that was delivered by Hogan, who appeared before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday, when she outlined the challenges that she faced during her time that she was the minister between 2009 and 2010.
Hogan, who had recommended that the position be taken up by Sipho Maseko, was overruled at Zuma’s insistence.
“It actually shocked me. He [Zuma] then said to me, you may not appoint anyone, to the board. I said to him [that] we cannot appoint him [Gama] until his disciplinary is over. He said to me that ‘you cannot appoint anyone’ to the board until that [Gama’s] disciplinary is over,” Hogan said.
During proceedings, which were led by Advocate Philip Mokoena, Hogan was asked if Zuma had provided a reason why Maseko should not have been appointed to the post.
“He never raised objections about Mr Maseko, he never referred to Mr Maseko. It was just ‘this was my candidate’. He never raised objections or reasons as to why he should not be appointed,” Hogan said.
The chair of the commission, Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, asked Hogan whether she knew if Zuma had Gama’s name in mind for the position, even before her meeting with him, given that Zuma was so insistent on Gama taking up the position.
“I had the impression that he had the name before I met with him. There were a lot of allegations going around; he seemed to be aware of the allegations,” she said.
“So whatever may have influenced him to make the choice that he made may have been known before the meeting?” Zondo asked.
“I’m not sure, because I have no evidence thereof. But it came out about a month or so later, that the ANC and a number of other organisations were supporting Gama as the preferred candidate. There were all sorts of allegations that Gama had been sidelined because a white man had also applied for the job and it was a plot to marginalise a very competent black man for the job. So there were a lot of false allegations going around,” Hogan explained.
The meeting which Hogan had with Zuma took place one month into her position as the minister, when Hogan advised Zuma of the vacant chief executive post at Transnet following Maria Ramos’ exit. During the meeting, Hogan said that Zuma had asserted his authority regarding Gama’s appointment.
“He insisted that I go ahead and appoint Gama. I said I couldn’t, [that] he was facing misconduct charges and that I couldn’t. He [Zuma] then said that no appointment to Transnet must be made, until the disciplinary case against Mr Gama was concluded,” Hogan said.
Gama was axed last month as Transnet chief executive after investigations found that he, former CEO Brian Molefe and Gupta associates may have benefited from the irregular awarding of tenders to Gupta-linked companies. Transnet has now taken legal action against Gama and a number of former executives, for their involvement in the locomotive deals, and has demanded that the executives pay back the money which they received in the awarding of the tenders.
During her testimony on Monday morning, Hogan was asked by Advocate Philip Mokoena as to whether or not the president could instruct the minister to appoint the chief executives of state-owned entities.
Hogan denied this, saying that the president would be “usurping” her executive authority.
Hogan, who oversaw the running of nine parastatals, including SAA, Eskom, Transnet and Denel, spoke of how the role of the minister in the running of the these entities was meant to be one of oversight, and that ministers did not interfere with the work of the chief executives.
Hogan, who was meant to deliver evidence to the commission last month, had her testimony postponed by the commission’s legal team on October 10.
On Thursday, current public enterprise minister Pravin Gordhan is expected to testify. It will prove a week of explosive testimony, with insight being provided into just how far of a tight rope the Gupta parade had ministers walking on.
Following the publication of leaked witness statements, the commission issued a warning to media and the public last Thursday, imploring the public to not disseminate any witness statements before a witness had delivered their evidence to the inquiry. Zondo began this morning’s proceeding by reiterating the call for the media and public to not leak any witness statements before appearing before the commission.
“I urge the media and everyone to observe Regulation 11(3) and desist from disseminating or publishing witnesses’ statements or portions thereof before the witnesses have given evidence at a hearing of the commission unless the chairperson’s written permission has been obtained,” Zondo said.
In the meantime, the commission has undertaken investigations into the leaked documents.
This week the commission will be looking at state-owned enterprises, and how far the allegations of state capture have gone into the functioning of the enterprises, including SAA, Eskom and Transnet.
The commission continues after lunch.