Not just Zuma but the ANC hung me out to dry, says Barbara Hogan
Former minister testifies about political pressure to toe the line on SOE appointments
Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan has pulled former president Jacob Zuma and the ANC squarely into the fray of the state capture inquiry, spelling out startling political interference in the appointment of the Transnet group chief executive officer.
In the first day of damning testimony, Hogan told judge Raymond Zondo how Zuma flouted the law and the constitution by trying to usurp her authority as minister by forcing the appointment of Siyabonga Gama as the CEO of Transnet in 2009, against the recommendation of the parastatal’s board.
Hogan also testified how the ANC, the SA Communist Party, the ANC Youth League and trade union Satawu applied public pressure to muscle through Gama’s appointment, despite the fact that he was at the time facing charges of misconduct for tender irregularities.
She said the organisations made “false allegations” that Gama was being sidelined because she and the Transnet board wanted to appoint a white candidate when the highly capable Sipho Maseko, now CEO of Telkom, was in fact recommended for the position.
Zuma instructed the withdrawal of Hogan’s memorandum to cabinet recommending Maseko for the position, insisting the post be held in abeyance until the completion of Gama’s disciplinary process.
Hogan also testified how two of her cabinet colleagues, now energy minister Jeff Radebe and former communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda, made public declarations that Gama would be appointed, and claimed he was being unfairly persecuted in the same way Zuma had been.
Hogan told Zondo about the intense pressure she was under at the time. She said while former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki always defended their ministers when they were under attack, Zuma did not stand by her.
“The president hung me out to dry,” she said.
Hogan, an ANC veteran who was the only white woman imprisoned for treason by the apartheid regime, challenged the Zondo commission to examine political interference in the appointments of the boards and CEOs of state-owned companies (SOEs). The SOEs were at the heart of the state capture project, with billions being funnelled to companies linked to the Guptas.
Significantly, the Guptas were never mentioned once in Hogan’s testimony on Monday.
But Hogan was highly critical of the role of the ANC in the corrosion of SOEs.
“Regrettably, these factional battles in the ANC only served to encourage and entrench nepotism and patronage from within the ranks of the ANC and the tripartite alliance, and this would have very damaging consequences for the SOEs and by extension for our economy,” said Hogan.
She said a certain faction in the ANC national executive committee that was loyal to Zuma “thought they could dictate who could be CEO or not”.
In a telling intervention that could have significant consequences for the future of the commission, Zondo said the inquiry, among other things, needed to look at where matters went wrong with the capture of the state, “including the role of the ruling party”.
This flies in the face of the ANC’s claim that it is not on trial at the inquiry.
Hogan said from her experience it seemed “the way to further your career is to walk the beaten path to Luthuli House”.
Hogan said in the early days of her time as public enterprises minister, she experienced political heat and the crossing of lines between the party and state. This was when she mentioned that South African Airways needed a strategic equity partner because of its serious difficulties staying financially afloat.
This landed her in trouble with the ANC and the alliance because they vetoed any form of privatisation.
“The secretary-general and deputy secretary-general kicked up a huge fuss and summoned me to Luthuli House,” said Hogan. Gwede Mantashe and Thandi Modise were at the time in the ANC secretariat.
Hogan said she felt that was inappropriate, as it should have been the president – and not the party – calling her to account.
She called into question the usefulness of the ANC’s deployment committee.
“If you see the number of appointments that go to cabinet every time, it is a huge number of people. For a handful of people to simply say this is their preferred candidate – on what basis? What transparency is there?” she asked.
She warned of the dangers for the government if the deployment committee was captured by a certain faction in the ANC.
“We have to protect government from undue influence,” Hogan said.
She was also critical of the lack of professionalism in Zuma’s administration.
“There was never an aide present,” Hogan said, pointing out that with former president Kgalema Motlanthe, there were always written records of meetings with ministers.
“With president Zuma, the housekeeper would sometimes organise the meetings ... there wasn’t professionalism there.”