South Africa: State Capture Inquiry - Zuma Denies Insisting On Gama As Transnet CEO

Former President Jacob Zuma at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, July 17, 2019.

Former president Jacob Zuma has denied that he insisted on appointing Siyabonga Gama as head of the country's ports and rail utility, Transnet, despite him facing misconduct charges.

Zuma was responding to allegations made by former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan before the judicial commission of inquiry into state capture.

Hogan previously told the commission that she was "extremely shocked" that Zuma would not hear of any candidate except Gama as chief executive officer of Transnet.

Hogan served as public enterprises minister from May 2009 until November 2010, when Zuma replaced her with Malusi Gigaba.

She said the board's preferred candidate to replace then-Transnet CEO Maria Ramos, who moved to Absa, was Sipho Maseko, who was head of southern African operations for BP at the time.

Zuma had never raised concerns or any reasons why Maseko should not be appointed, she said, adding that she had found out a month or two later that the ANC supported Gama as the candidate for the job.

When asked about Hogan's statement, about him informing her that Gama was his only choice for CEO, Zuma denied this.

"I don't remember myself saying these things. How could I say this when somebody is being charged with serious charges? I don't remember me insisting on this," Zuma told inquiry chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

"It couldn't be like that. We don't work like that. There is a process that determines who becomes the winning candidates," he said.

He said he could not remember discussing an individual, like Gama.

"What ministers at times do, they will come to the president, just to brief, not to discuss whether we should do this or not.

"I am not even fond of making such determined statements. I would not have said this. I couldn't have said this, because it means I would also be undermining the process itself."

But when asked whether he was aware that the board did not think Gama was a suitable candidate, Zuma said: "Yes, I think so."

During her testimony last year, Hogan claimed that she was only a month into the job when she started feeling that Zuma was "exceeding his authority".

"There were ways that president Zuma and some Cabinet colleagues thwarted my attempts to get appointments approved," she said during her testimony.

Gama was dismissed in October last year because of the board's lack of "trust and confidence" in him.

Earlier on Wednesday, Zuma told the commission that the ANC had taken a decision to establish a deployment committee which helped in finding suitable candidates for positions in government.

He said ministers who search for candidates would also rely on the governing party to recommend suitable people.

Zuma said the deployment committee did not necessarily appoint candidates, but recommended them based on their experience and loyalty to party policies.

"Loyalty goes without saying, but it does not mean we cannot take somebody who is a professional, who is willing to participate in government."

The hearing continued on Wednesday.

Source: News24

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