Season of madness: ‘Duduzane said he’d report me to daddy’
In explosive testimony, former minister Ramatlhodi said ex-Eskom boss Ngubane also threatened to report him to Zuma
Former cabinet minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi delivered explosive testimony at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.
The struggle veteran, who served in the mineral resources and later public administration portfolios, laid bare the state of the ANC in President Jacob Zuma’s second term, including the considerable power wielded by his friends, the Guptas.
He also named Zuma’s son Duduzane as a key figure doing the bidding for the Guptas and connecting them with ministers.
Ramatlhodi’s testimony spanned more than three hours, after which his then special adviser, Mahlodi Samuel Muofhe, took the stand.
Hard-hitting claims at the inquiry: When Duduzane Zuma kept pestering Ramatlhodi for meeting, the two finally met. In that meeting, Zuma’s son allegedly told Ramatlhodi there was a rumour doing the rounds that the former minister was badmouthing him and the Guptas. Duduzane threatened to report Ramatlhodi to his father. “He wanted to me to explain to Ajay Gupta that I did not badmouth them. My own reflection is that they have been trying to meet me for a long time, and I was refusing so they had to create a story,” Ramatlhodi said.
Ramatlhodi told the commission how he, along with other members of the ANC NEC, kept warning Zuma about his “toxic” relationship with the Guptas. “In the [NEC], we would raise this issue with [Zuma]. We would say: ‘This relationship with these guys is toxic, why don’t you end it?’ He would say these people are my friends because they would help my children.”
Ramatlhodi also described a conversation he had with his then director-general at mineral resources, Thibedi Ramontja, early in 2015 at the mining indaba, where it was revealed the Guptas were hosting all top government officials at their homes. “During the mining indaba, [Ramontja] said all the directors-general and deputy directors-general would be hosted by the Guptas in their Cape Town home. He said other businesspeople and investors would meet them there. I told him this will not happen on my watch,” Ramatlhodi said.
Ramatlhodi said a faction in the NEC supporting Zuma had rendered the views of other members moot, leaving the power of decision-making solely in the hands of the former president. He accused Zuma of disregarding debates and other views at NEC meetings. “You can characterise that period as a season of madness in the organisation in the sense that there was a paralysis in the NEC occasioned by a faction that was led by the former president. The NEC basically owned up to the mistakes the former president had done and we took responsibility. The balance of power within the NEC was [with his faction], that’s the only rational explanation one can give,” Ramatlhodi said.
Former Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane allegedly threatened to report Ramatlhodi to Zuma if he did not revoke Glencore’s mining licences in 2015. The threat was allegedly made at a meeting between Ngubane, former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and Ramatlhodi. When it became clear Ramatlhodi would not comply with the request, Zuma called him to his residence at Mahlambandlopfu, Pretoria, and removed him from the mineral resources portfolio and shifted him to public service and administration.
Ramatlhodi also testified how his ministerial replacement at mineral resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, wanted Mzwanele Manyi as director-general. The request came to Ramatlhodi at public service and administration, but he refused to endorse Manyi based on a lack of adequate qualifications for the top post. Muofhe spoke of how he received a letter from one of the Gupta-owned companies “directing” him and Ramatlhodi to attend a dinner at the family’s Saxonwold compound, a week after they joined the mineral resources department. “It was not a request in the normal sense where you are requesting someone to have dinner. You are directing a person to come and have dinner at your place. We were directed to be there on a Thursday,” Muofhe said. He and Ramatlhodi declined the invite, a move he describes as the beginning of the end for them.
Muofhe also claimed Zuma offered him the position as national director of public prosecutions on condition he did not pursue charges against then deputy NPA director Nomgcobo Jiba. “I am appointing you as long as you don’t touch Nomgcobo Jiba,” Muofhe said, paraphrasing Zuma.