Themba Maseko’s performance as the government’s communications boss was viewed as so good that in his final job appraisal he was given a score of 114%, with a bonus recommended.
This “exceeded the standard agreed to,” Maseko told the Zondo Commission on Wednesday.
Yet Maseko was removed from his position shortly afterwards – something former president Jacob Zuma told the commission in July was the result of a conflict between Maseko and deceased former Minister of performance, monitoring and evaluation, Collins Chabane.
“I think what the former president says in his oral evidence is untrue,” Maseko testified. He said that there was no tension in his relationship with Chabane.
Maseko previously told the inquiry into State Capture that he was fired after refusing to follow a directive from Zuma to help the Gupta family establish their The New Age newspaper in 2010. He said he was personally called by Ajay Gupta, who warned Maseko that if he did not ensure that the government’s full R600-million advertising spend went to The New Age, his job would be in jeopardy.
Maseko says he subsequently had a meeting with Chabane in which the minister told him that Zuma had phoned him to instruct him to remove Maseko from his position.
“He was quite specific,” Maseko reiterated on Tuesday. “By the time the president comes back into the country I should no longer be the CEO of GCIS.”
Chabane’s former spokesperson Brent Simons gave corroborating testimony in August, telling the inquiry that Chabane told him that Zuma had subsequently commanded the minister to replace Maseko with Zuma loyalist Mzwanele (“Jimmy”) Manyi.
In July, Zuma told the commission: “I never instructed the minister to do so. The minister discussed the fact that he would like to transfer Mr Maseko. Well I think there was an issue between the two of them. I can’t remember the details.”
Zuma also said that the transfer of Maseko and his replacement with Manyi would have been a decision taken by Cabinet.
Evidence leader Kate Hofmeyr told the inquiry on Wednesday, however, that the office of the Presidency had confirmed on Tuesday night that the relevant Cabinet meeting minutes had no record of the movements of the two officials.
Maseko was subsequently moved to the Department of Public Service and Administration.
Such transfers, he said, would normally be linked to either Cabinet reshuffles or to a breakdown in the working relationship between the official and the relevant minister.
Maseko reiterated: “Without any shadow of a doubt, there was no dispute between myself and Minister Chabane.”