- Malusi Gigaba believed that the Transnet disciplinary processes were lenient to white executives accused of wrongdoing.
- The former minister of public enterprises thought Siyabonga Gama, who had been found guilty of misconduct, was treated unfairly.
- Gigaba conveyed his concerns of racial bias to the then-Transnet board chairperson Mafika Mkwanazi, and the executive was reinstated.
In pushing for the review of dismissal of former Transnet divisional manager Siyabonga Gama in 2010, the ex-minister of public enterprises Malusi Gigaba indicated that white executives had got away with far worse transgressions compared to their black counterparts, a witness told the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Friday.
Gama had been found guilty of misconduct following a disciplinary hearing involving his role in the awarding of tenders at the state-owned logistics firm, which has been at the centre of allegations of looting and corruption involving senior officials. However, evidence heard by the commission so far has indicated that Gama lobbied hard for his seat at the helm of the company, and even took up the matter with former President Jacob Zuma.
On Friday, evidence by former Transnet board chairperson, Mafika Mkwanazi - who was in charge of the board when it sanctioned Gama's reinstatement - detailed a briefing he had with Gigaba towards the end of October 2010, prior to his assumption of the public enterprises portfolio in November.
- READ | Zuma behind bewildering manoeuvres to get Siyabonga Gama back to Transnet in 2010, inquiry hears
In the meeting with Gigaba, Mkhwanazi said Gigaba raised the issue of transformation within the firm, and black suppliers not being given an opportunity, the briefing of black legal firms as well as the elevation of black women to top positions.
Gigaba's alleged involvement in the matter, as a direct representative of the shareholder, the state, added another layer in the controversial reinstatement of an official who had been found guilty of three counts of misconduct, and later went on to be appointed group chief executive of the company, despite his chequered past.
Gama had been fired from the state freight and rail logistics company on June 29, 2010 following a disciplinary hearing for his role in the awarding of contracts, including a tender to General Nyanda Security, which was unprocedurally extended to the firm through a closed process.
Mkwanazi went on to say Gigaba mentioned that he felt Gama's sanction was too harsh and the company's disciplinary processes were racially biased, as there was a history of bias against black executives who were often dismissed following disciplinary action, yet white executives were not even charged or disciplined for similar procurement related offences.
Chief Justice Raymond Zondo wanted to know what was the basis for Gigaba's view that Gama's censure was too harsh, and Mkwanazi said it was due to white executives getting away with much more serious offences. He did not name examples.
Gigaba's response to Gama's affairs was summarily to issue an instruction to the board to assess the outcome of the disciplinary hearing, however Mkwanazi battled to answer if Gigaba was in favour of the executive's reinstatement or settlement.
"I am aware that Mr Gama was running all over the show trying to get sympathy from various organisations," said Mkwanazi, pointing out that he had even met Zuma over the matter, whom Mkwanazi described as being sympathetic to his case, favouring his return to the company.
Gama himself had planned to challenge the outcome of his dismissal before the board took a controversial decision to reinstate him with full back pay.
In his attempt to absolve himself of any wrongdoing in the matter, Mkwanazi insisted that Gama's disciplinary hearing had been fair and that he was of the view that Gama should be demoted.
"In my negotiation with the sub-committee of the board...at some stage I wanted Gama to take demotion, I refused to put him in whatever position he thought he would get."
Gama was reinstated in February 2011 and subsequently appointed as interim group CEO, following the departure of Brian Molefe, who was seconded to Eskom. His position became permanent in April 2016.