Gigaba saw no evil, heard no evil, spoke no evil
All my decisions were for good governance, insists minister at state capture probe
Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday defended his performance as former minister of Public Enterprise denying that he wilfully facilitated state capture.
He repeatedly emphasised under questioning by MPs that as minister he was not involved in the awarding of contracts by state-owned enterprises as this was the responsibility of the board of directors as the accounting authority.
Democratic Alliance public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Mazzone was adamant that the repeated awarding of major contracts to the Gupta family by state-owned enterprises should have raised a red flag for Gigaba and that he must have known about the state capture underway.
“Ministers must not get involved in tenders. They must stay away,” Gigaba stressed during the parliamentary inquiry into state capture of state-owned enterprises. He was required to answer to allegations that he aided and abetted state capture through his appointment of Gupta-linked individuals to the boards of state-owned enterprises when he was minister of Public Enterprises between November 2010 and May 2014.
The appointment of the Gupta-associated Iqbal Sharma to the board of Transnet was the most glaring example of such an appointment, but Gigaba insisted that Sharma was appointed purely on the basis of his skills.
As the chair of the Transnet board acquisition and disposal committee, Sharma is alleged to have played a crucial role in the state capture of Transnet. Gupta-linked Tequesta earned an advisory fee of about R5,3-billion from the R52-billion deal which Transnet signed with China South Rail for the acquisition of 1,064 locomotives. Sharma has denied the allegations.Gigaba said it had been “disheartening and shocking” for him to witness that some of the appointments he made were now being impugned whereas at the time they were made they were hailed as being positive.
Decisions were taken on the basis of the facts before him at the time, the minister said.
“I made decisions to ensure good governance and I appointed people who I viewed as competent to fulfill some very important roles in the state-owned companies,” Gigaba said.
“I am severely disappointed that those roles appear to have in certain instances to have been abused. I regret any role that I inadvertently played in the appointment of any director who subsequently failed to prioritise the interests of the relevant state-owned company and, more importantly, this country.
“At the time I acted on the facts available to me and made what I thought were meritorious appointments.”
The Eskom board was replaced because the majority of directors had been on the board for longer than nine years and needed to be rotated in the interests of good corporate governance.
Gigaba told MPs that he was deeply concerned about the sponsorships that Transnet and Eskom gave between 2011 and 2013 to the business breakfasts organised by the New Age newspaper, owned at the time by the Guptas.
Eskom paid R17,5-million for 18 breakfasts and Transnet R7,2-million for six breakfasts which were covered by the SABC and addressed by government ministers.“I felt it was inappropriate that such large sums of money were being spent on breakfast sponsorships especially in the midst of such large-scale build projects that were being undertaken,” Gigaba said. His powers were limited, however, as such decisions were the responsibility of the boards.
“I issued instructions to the chairs of the state-owned companies that all such sponsorship requests and requests for information (about the state-owned companies) must be routed through the Department (of Public Enterprises) in the future.”
By 2013 the problem had escalated to such an extent that then-public protector Thuli Madonsela initiated an investigation into the matter, focusing on alleged fruitless and wasteful expenditure by Eskom, Transnet, SABC and Telkom. Madonsela also probed the allegation that the department exercised undue influence on these companies in deciding to sponsor the New Age breakfasts.