The parlous condition of state-owned enterprises was the result of a massive system failure in how the boards of SOEs were appointed, President Cyril Ramaphosa has admitted at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Ramaphosa completed his first day of testimony before the commission on Wednesday 28 April and will continue for a second day on Thursday. Judge Raymond Zondo asked the head of state what criteria were followed in appointing boards and “how come they (SOEs) are in this state now?”
“Some of the (failure) may have been inadvertent, and some may have been purposeful,” said Ramaphosa.
“Some of (the appointments) were hidden and masked.”
He told the commission that SOEs in South Africa were about to experience a new dawn. However, there is no evidence of that yet. At Eskom, load shedding was worse than ever in 2020; Prasa passenger trains are mostly not running; Denel is unable to pay salaries and Transnet requires years of capital injections to get back on track.
However, Ramaphosa said he would establish a state-owned enterprise council to improve governance, including appointments. He also revealed that the appointments of many of the key players in State Capture, like Brian Molefe (as Eskom and Transnet CEO), Matshela Koko (as acting Eskom CEO), Dudu Myeni (as SAA chairperson) and Arthur Fraser (as head of the State Security Agency), had not been endorsed by the party’s deployment committee which he chaired as deputy president. The implication is that former president Jacob Zuma went rogue and made appointments outside party and government systems.
“They (the appointments) were done in a particular era and in a particular way. We must move away from that (practice),” said Ramaphosa. He said that the deployment committee (now chaired by deputy president David Mabuza) had upbraided him for not passing certain top job candidates through it.
Under cross-examination by evidence leader Paul Pretorius, Ramaphosa said that patronage was a factor in some government appointments.
“We acknowledge that ill-qualified persons were put into positions. That testifies to patronage behind it, and it fuels factionalism,” he said. He repeatedly said that any candidates appointed to government and SOE jobs needed to be “fit for purpose”.
Asked about how the facilities management company Bosasa had funded an election centre for the ANC, even though its business model depended on government contracts, he said, “It was one of those anomalous events that did happen. The ANC should have been aware of the Bosasa issues,” said Ramaphosa, adding that the new Political Party Funding Act should ensure this would not happen again.
Earlier, Ramaphosa defended the party’s deployment policy and was non-committal when asked if it was time to call it a day on cadre development and deployment.
“We are still seeking to build a diverse nation in terms of culture and gender. Transformation is a process over time. It needs a strategic intent.”
Ramaphosa said that when it came to making key appointments, all governments asked, “Is that person one of us.”
Earlier Ramaphosa said the ANC had been caught in State Capture, although he said most party leaders and members abhorred corruption.
The president’s testimony continues on Thursday and over two days at the end of May. DM