The former ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, was present when former president Jacob Zuma fired former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan just over a year after appointing her, she will tell the Zondo commission of inquiry.
“… on Sunday 31 October 2010, the President’s office called me to a meeting with him and in the presence of Gwede Mantashe, the Secretary-General of the ANC, President Zuma said that the NEC had decided to re-deploy me as an Ambassador to Finland. I declined the redeployment and informed them that I would be resigning as a Member of Parliament,” Hogan reveals in her written testimony.
Mantashe, now Mineral Resources minister, has come up several times since the State Capture inquiry began taking testimony.
In her first day of oral testimony on Monday, Hogan narrated how Zuma kept her on speed-dial so he could influence appointments to the boards and executive positions at Transnet, Eskom and SAA. Because of this, the two had serial altercations about Transnet, Eskom and in relation to the scrapping of a lucrative SAA route from Johannesburg to Mumbai to favour a Gupta family-related business alliance with Jet Airways.
Hogan revealed on Monday how Zuma insisted in 2009 that recently axed Siyabonga Gama be appointed Transnet CEO over the board’s top candidate, Sipho Maseko, who was the front-runner for the job after Pravin Gordhan pulled out as a candidate in 2009 when Maria Ramos resigned from the rail parastatal. Maseko did not get the Transnet job but is now the well-regarded CEO of Telkom.
She said that Zuma also exploded angrily when the then Eskom board presided over the resignation of CEO Jacob Maroga.
He insisted that Maroga had not resigned and protected the Eskom executive by giving him permission to return to Eskom.
“President Zuma and I had a heated argument on the matter. On the same day, 9 September 2009, Mr Maroga arrived at Eskom, accompanied by Jimmy Manyi and a few others, and went upstairs to his office.”
A standoff ensued and Hogan threatened to make a statement at Parliament, whereupon Zuma told Maroga to vacate his office.
Mantashe puts in the first appearance at this point of the story. Via an adviser, Hogan was instructed to ask the business leader Bobby Godsell to return as Eskom chairperson after he had quit as the feathers flew over Maroga.
“Later, however, the President phoned me and asked me to tell Mr Godsell that he will not return as Chairperson of the Board. Gwede Mantashe made a similar demand, although during this entire episode he had made it quite clear to me that he did not support what the President was doing.”
Mantashe was consulted by Zuma and included in hiring and firing decisions because of the policy of cadre deployment of the ANC. Cadre deployment started when it took over the apartheid state and was aimed at deploying democratically minded individuals (cadres) into key levers of the democratic state.
“It became apparent during my time and we see it later in statements by the ANC NEC and NWC (national executive committee and national working committee) that they saw (the cadre deployment policy) as their right to instruct a minister.
“I regarded this as an abuse of power and usurping the authority of the minister and the Constitution. I feel very strongly about this. When you become an MP (member of parliament), your responsibility is to the Constitution,” said Hogan.
She added that she had learnt that, “If that (the ANC) deployment committee is captured by whatever forces, it can have a fundamental impact on government.”
In her written testimony, Hogan questions the usefulness of cadre deployment.
“… the usefulness of such a deployment committee these days is debatable. How can just a handful of people possibly have the institutional knowledge and resources to pronounce on suitable candidates for every senior position in government and the private sector? It cannot be that closeness to or membership of the ANC, or any of its Alliance structures (or to factions within these structures), should be the determining factors in the selection of candidates for senior positions. In this day and age, there are a host of capable black and white professionals (women and men) from which to choose, who clearly understand and have an appetite for making the economy grow. Directorships on Boards should never be granted to the favoured few, as a reward for loyalty to a party or a faction of a party, or as a retirement benefit for the well-connected.”
Hogan said that in her short stint as Public Enterprises minister, she spoke to Mantashe on several occasions regarding deployments and that while he asked questions, these were usually related to broad matters of transformation.
“I was very clear (with Mantashe) that I was hearing what issues were and that I would apply my mind.”
Former Transnet CEO Siyabonga Gama became a totemic figure of cadre deployment. While he was dismissed from Transnet for two mismanaged contracts, Gama was defended by and his appointment insisted upon by Mantashe, Hogan’s fellow Cabinet minister, Jeff Radebe, the ANC veteran General Simphiwe Nyanda and by the Cosatu-affiliated South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) which organised at Transnet.
“In the ANC, there was Gama and no one else,” said Hogan. Gama was recently fired from Transnet and he is waging another battle for reinstatement.
The Transnet board, chaired at the time by business luminary Fred Phaswana, had recommended Maseko for the role. He passed recruitment tests with the best results, but the ANC would not approve his appointment.
“What are we saying to Sipho Maseko who came flying through the tests (when he is not appointed). What is the ANC saying – is it saying there is an in-house and an out-house? That the way to pursue your career is to ingratiate yourself with the party?” asked Hogan.
Hogan said that on her appointment, she realised just how financially stressed the state-owned enterprises under her purview were. In an interview at the time, she told a journalist that SAA would need an equity partner to get its wings above water.
She said that Mantashe and his deputy Jessie Duarte had “kicked up a huge fuss and publicly summonsed me to explain myself at Luthuli House” because the party’s position is against privatisation.
“It should have been the President who summoned me, not the party,” said Hogan, who said that cadre deployment, as well as appointments to boards, needed a rethink as they were open to factional manipulation.
“The actions of President Zuma damaged the performance of these entities and embedded an ethos of political cronyism, nepotism, lack of accountability and corruption in our body politic,” said the former Public Enterprises minister, who joined the ANC in 1977, as she explained her decision to come forward to testify before the commission. DM