PARLIAMENT

Gigaba gets an invitation to the State Capture inquiry, Myeni gets a second chance

By Marianne Merten 1 March 2018

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba is expected to appear before the parliamentary State Capture inquiry next week to testify on Eskom’s state of governance during his term at public enterprises. This emerged after Wednesday’s meeting of the public enterprises committee, which also decided to give a second chance to former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni to appear before them next week, before summonsing her. Myeni SMSed her apology and stayed away. By MARIANNE MERTEN.

If Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba does appear before the State Capture parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday as invited, it would be a first for him in the eight months since four committees were “directed” to probe what emerged from the #GuptaLeaks. In contrast to the public enterprises committee, home affairs MPs have been satisfied to hear, repeatedly, from Director-General Mkuseli Apleni as to how Gigaba during his previous stint at the helm of home affairs used his ministerial discretion to fast-track citizenship for several Gupta family members.

Chairperson of the public enterprises committee parliamentary State Capture inquiry, Zukiswa Rantho, confirmed to Daily Maverick that Gigaba was invited to appear before MPs on Tuesday to testify on matters related to the Eskom board and governance while he was public enterprises minister.

At least two academic research reports – Betrayal of the Promise: How South Africa is being stolen and the Eskom inquiry Reference Book – have linked Gigaba to fundamental restructuring and repurposing of SoE boards following his November 2010 appointment to the public enterprises portfolio. In June 2011 he replaced all but two Eskom board members, and subsequently also appointed Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh to Transnet. They later moved to Eskom at the height of State Capture.

Last week Gigaba, then still finance minister, told journalists ahead of delivering the Budget, according to Business Day, that he would answer to State Capture claims before the commission of inquiry chaired by Constitutional Court Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

“We will all subject ourselves to the State Capture commission and all those invited to do so will present themselves. In that case we will provide responses to issues that pertain to us and [give] clarity to any allegations.”

While the EFF has described Gigaba as the “architect of State Capture”, the minister has denied any wrongdoing, saying he’s not been named either in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report or elsewhere.

Gigaba has also dismissed a North Gauteng High Court ruling that he had lied under oath in the application by Fireblade Aviation for a declaratory order to uphold his permission given when still home affairs minister to the Oppenheimer-linked company to render private arrivals facilities at OR Tambo International Airport. That permission was revoked in a messy saga, allegedly after the Gupta family brought pressure to bear.

“I stand by what I said,” Gigaba told journalists at the traditional pre-Budget briefing, saying he had yet to study the judgment and consult his lawyers.

However, DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen complained to the public protector within hours of the court ruling and later also tried to stop Gigaba from delivering the Budget.

“The minister has lied under oath and violated the Constitution. This renders him unsuitable not only to be a minister of state, but to deliver the Budget,” he said.

If Gigaba appears before the parliamentary State Capture inquiry, he would be the second public enterprises minister to do so. In November 2017, then Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown continued her critical stance to this parliamentary process, saying law enforcement agencies were best placed to investigate malfeasance at State-owned Enterprises (SoEs) in what turned out to be a bruising six-hour testimony.

In mid-June 2017 House Chairperson for Committees Cedric Frolick, according to a statement by Parliament, “directed” four committees to “ensure immediate engagement with the concerned ministers” so Parliament could get to the bottom of the State Capture claims. While no specific deadline was given, except to “urgently” report back to the House, committees needed to deal with this because “Parliament… shoulders the constitutional responsibility of ensuring that matters of major public interest are dealt with as expected by the people”.

Of the four named committees – public enterprises, home affairs, mineral resources and transport – only public enterprises launched an inquiry, which since late last year has heard not only whistle-blowers, but also top Eskom officials, board members and Brown and her deputy Ben Martins.

In contrast, the home affairs committee last week for at least the second time in 10 months was briefed by the director-general on how Gigaba used his ministerial discretion under the Citizenship Act to grant the early naturalisation of several Gupta family members in 2015.

“Enough information has been provided by the Department of Home Affairs to the committee. The committee will at a right time take a decision on the basis of the information at its disposal,” said Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs chair Lemias Mashile in an official statement afterwards, adding that Apleni could be recalled.

Late last month the mineral resources committee finally decided to draft terms of reference for an inquiry into Mosebenzi Zwane’s role in State Capture after he repeatedly dodged dates with MPs, including by invoking attendance at non-existing meetings and illness, since their first interaction in October 2017. Whether that inquiry would go ahead now that Zwane has lost his Cabinet post – he remains an ANC MP – remains to be seen.

The transport committee has not yet moved on the official institutional directive – it is understood it has cited legislative and other pressures – but the trade and industry committee has stepped into the breach with an inquiry into local content in various transport tenders, including the awarding of a multibillion-rand locomotive acquisition through South China Rail in a contract that involved a Gupta-linked company.

On Wednesday, the trade and industry committee heard from bus operators about the difficulty faced because of cheap imports preferred in maintenance plans. And Busmark Group CEO Patuxolo Nodada told MPs that as a black-owned business it was almost unfeasible to pay R1-million for the South Africa Bureau of Standards (SABS) audit on local content:

“We can’t afford to pay that to try get a tender.”

Challenges also included the lack of understanding among government officials of the importance of local content.

“They don’t understand the design of local content. For them it is a ‘by the way’ thing.”

The public enterprises committee parliamentary State Capture inquiry is under time pressure to wrap up and bring recommendations to the House by the end of March. This emerged on Wednesday when MPs across the party-political spectrum were irate at being snubbed by former SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, who is also the chairperson of the Jacob Zuma Foundation.

Late last year Myeni was named in former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi’s testimony as having called him to a meeting at then President Jacob Zuma’s Durban residence in early 2015 to discuss SoE governance, with the president also popping in at one stage for an update on discussions.

Myeni had sent an SMS to the committee secretary, tendering her apologies for standing up MPs.

“She said she is waiting to be guided by her lawyer on how to respond to the invitation by Parliament. They will look at the legalities of coming to the inquiry and will come back to us in writing. She has apologised for being unavailable via an SMS,” according to a statement by the public enterprises committee on this matter.

Last time Myeni failed to pitch up for a date with MPs, then the finance committee which in September 2017 wanted an update on the precarious financial state of the national airliner, she had then Finance Deputy Minister Sifiso Buthelezi transmit her apologies. Although she was in Cape Town, it was for a tooth extraction a day earlier, confirmed Buthelezi: “She sent me a doctor’s letter”.

On Wednesday DA MP Natasha Mazzone described Myeni’s failure to honour the committee’s invitation as “typical modus operandi of this particular person”, and called for her to be summonsed.

“It’s unfortunate we have to summons someone to do their country duty.”

And while other political parties’ public representatives were equally annoyed by Myeni’s non-attendance, they said she should be given another chance. And so she’ll be re-invited to testify by next Wednesday before the parliamentary State Capture inquiry.

Whether Myeni will show up remains to be seen, as will be whether Gigaba honours his appointment. DM

Photo: Malusi Gigaba (GCIS photo)

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