Former South African President Jacob Zuma insisted on appointing Siyabonga Gama as head of the country’s ports and rail utility despite him facing misconduct charges and against the recommendation of the company’s board, former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan said.
“I was extremely shocked — the president would not hear of any candidate except Siyabonga Gama” as chief executive officer of Transnet, Hogan said Monday. She was speaking at the Johannesburg-based Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, or the use of political connections by the Gupta family, who were friends with Zuma, to secure the appointment of allies to key state posts and win contracts. “He wanted me to go ahead with the appointment of Gama – I said I can’t do that. We then agreed that I would provide him with further information, which I then did.”
The board’s preferred candidate to replace Transnet CEO Maria Ramos, who moved to Absa, was Sipho Maseko, who was head of southern African operations for BP at the time, Hogan said. Hogan served as public enterprises minister from May 2009 until November 2010, when Zuma replaced her with Malusi Gigaba.
“I was only one month into that job but I was already feeling that the president was exceeding his authority,” Hogan said, who added that Zuma told her not to appoint anyone until Gama’s disciplinary proceedings were over. “There were ways that President Zuma and some Cabinet colleagues thwarted my attempts to get appointments approved.”
Transnet started the disciplinary process against Gama in August 2009, and suspended him as head of its freight division a month later because of an alleged serious breach of governance requirements in respect of two procurement contracts. He was reinstated in March 2011, and was appointed acting CEO of the group in April 2015.
South Africa appointed Brian Molefe as CEO of Transnet in February 2011 after almost two years without a permanent appointee.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has pledged to stamp out corruption since taking over from Zuma in February. That has included replacing directors at a number of state companies including power utility Eskom, which has also been embroiled in allegations of misuse of funds and irregular awarding of contracts. At the center of these allegations is the Gupta family. They deny wrongdoing.
Zuma “never raised objections about Mr. Maseko; he never referred to Mr. Maseko, and he never raised reasons why he should not be appointed,” Hogan said. “It was just Gama. That’s it.”
Hogan said that during her time as minister, there was “no clarity” on where the ruling African National Congress’s role starts and ends relating to appointing CEOs and boards at state-owned enterprises. The commission plans to investigate the process, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo said.