Former president Jacob Zuma, who is testifying before the Zondo commission into state capture, on Wednesday said there was “no problem” with “loyalty to the party [ANC]” as being one of the prerequisites for individuals being appointed to the boards of State-Owned Enterprises or government positions.
“That is a universal thing, parties throughout the world - when they win elections they bring their own people [in]. People who will support and take their policies forward. You cannot take people who don’t like the party to come and work for the party…it goes without saying,” said Zuma.
When pressed further by both the commission chairperson, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and evidence leader Advocate Paul Pretorius, Zuma backtracked and said “loyalty to the party, although going without saying, should not even be a factor.”
He said skill sets and other qualifications should, and has always been, take precedence.
He was responding to a question from Pretorius who sought to get counter submissions from the former president in regards to previous testimony given by former public enterprises minister Barbra Hogan.
Hogan’s testimony was that SOEs were in disarray due to the individiuals being appointed based on loyalty, not only to the ANC but certain factions within the party, and not merit.
During her testimony in November last year, Hogan criticised not only the ANC’s deployment committee, but also Zuma of meddling in SOE appointments.
The interference was heavily criticized by Hogan and others who appeared before the Zondo Commission as having contributed to the disarry of SOEs.
Transnet alone had R122.5-billion worth of outstanding loans in 2018, while other SOE's such as Eskom and Denel are also in the red.
Hogan’s explosive testimony outlined the “challenges” that she faced during her tenure while she was minister from 2009 to 2010.
She testified that she had at the time recommended that the position be taken up by Sipho Maseko but was overruled at Zuma’s insistence that Siyabonga Gama be appointed as the Transnet chief executive, despite her warning against such an appointment.
“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 [proceedings] is over,” said Hogan.
Not disputing that appointments to key positions in SOE during his tenure as president could have been made based on party affiliation and loyalty, Zuma challenged Hogan’s submission saying he had not sought to influence anyone on his preference of Gama nor any other candidate.
He dismissed Hogan’s testimony as “individual views being expressed by an individual.”
Subsequent to Hogan’s testimony, the ANC through its head of communications in the presidency at the time, Zizi Kodwa, argued that the ANC’s deployment committee “did not appoint, but merely made recommendations” on which individuals to appoint, while ministers held the authority to appoint.
Kodwa also made it clear the ruling party would “at a later stage” also avail itself before the commission to precisely address the allegations made by its own member.
These statements were echoed by Zuma during his testimony on Wednesday, with the former president saying there was no bias in the manner in which the ANC’s deployment committee went about making recommendations.
He said the “ANC deployments were not made based on factional loyalties but on certain skills, not the fact that they agree with party views.”
“It is possible that the candidate recommended by the deployment committee fails the interview, so the deployment committee cannot decide who gets the job,” argued Zuma.
The former president’s legal team through its head Muzi Sikhakhane, also sought to interject and have Pretorius stop this line of questioning.
Zuma’s testimony continues.