Gigaba told the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom that contracts the power utility entered into with Tegeta, Trillian and Regiments did not happen on his watch, therefore “I cannot comment on them”.
Meanwhile, it also emerged that former president Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, former-SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni and the Guptas will be summoned to appear before the inquiry into state capture after several attempts to get them to come to Parliament failed.
The portfolio committee on public enterprises on Tuesday said it would not be held to ransom by Duduzane, the Guptas or Myeni, and wanted to wrap up their investigation.
During a heated exchange with DA MP Natasha Mazzone, Gigaba rejected any suggestion that he should have intervened to set aside contracts with the family's business empire as allegations of impropriety grew. He insisted that ministers could not, and should not, involve themselves in procurement.
“But I was not involved in who gets what. I was a minister and ministers must remain out of procurement in state-owned companies, as well as in their own departments,” Gigaba said after Mazzone charged that he allowed state capture to happen “under your nose”.
In his testimony, which stretched for some seven hours, Gigaba repeatedly expressed concern about the Gupta family’s influence over parastatals and political processes in the Zuma administration. He said it undeniably damaged the economy.
“I think the facts that are emerging before us would indicate that there was a lot of communication and background dealings that were taking place,” he said when MPs raised reports that Salim Essa, a close associate of the Gupta family, sent Collin Matjila's CV to the family shortly before he was appointed acting chief executive at Eskom in 2014.
Gigaba portrayed himself as a champion of competent executives at Eskom, saying he persuaded Brian Dames to withdraw his resignation the first time he wanted to step down as CEO, and pushed against attempts to portray former finance director, Tsholofelo Molefe, as “under- qualified”.
Pressed about unsound decisions, he said it was never brought to his attention that there was “a push for certain Gupta-related companies”.
He firmly rejected a suggestion from ACDP MP Steve Swart that Zola Tsotsi was made chairman of Eskom because he was a puppet of the Gupta family and dismissed their attempts to dictate to him as manipulation. Swart referred to an incident where Tony Gupta reportedly told Tsotsi that he was placed in his position by the family and that they would likewise remove him.
“I think he was playing marbles, he was trying to intimidate him. He had to stand firm and I applaud him for that,” Gigaba said.
Swart then moved to Tsotsi’s claim that former South African Airways chairwoman Dudu Myeni informed him - in the presence of then president Jacob Zuma, in 2015 - that a number of Eskom executives would be suspended. He said the incidents created the impression that the Gupta family, “via the family and via you”, held considerable sway.
“They played no such role to influence me,” Gigaba responded, before suggesting that in Myeni's case the family may have had influence. The inquiry has, until now, tried in vain to get Myeni to appear to give her account of the meeting, which took place at Zuma’s home, according to Tsotsi.
The chairwoman of the inquiry, Zukiswa Rantho, said on Tuesday that Myeni still maintained that her health did not allow her to travel to Cape Town. The Gupta brothers also shrugged off a request to appear to testify.
MPs grilled Gigaba about his ties with family and whether they received preferential treatment from him when he served as home affairs minister for the first time. He vehemently denied the suggestion, pointing to the fact that Ajay Gupta was not granted citizenship because he refused to relinquish his Indian nationality.
He pointed out that nine members of the family were naturalised between 2002 and 2006, before he even became an MP.
He said four more were naturalised in 2015, and the department had been careful to respect the letter of the law. “They were ordered to renounce their Indian citizenship. One refused and therefore he remains a non-SA citizen.”
Gigaba said that he had argued for Myeni's removal as SAA chairwoman, but had championed competent executives at Eskom such as Dames. But he conceded that he took no action after it emerged that his special adviser Siyabonga Mahlangu had introduced a dismayed Dames to one of the Gupta brothers, who suggested the family should be favourably considered for coal contracts.
Dames, in testimony before the inquiry in October, said he was not certain which of the brothers it had been. But Dames remembered being told “we have decided we can work with you”. Gigaba said Mahlangu did not act on his instructions and he did not see the need to rebuke him.
Gigaba said he did not believe it was fair for Dames to be cornered about what was essentially a decision about coal policy because that belonged with the shareholder and the Eskom board.
But, he said, the matter went no further because Dames ensured that it did not.
Gigaba, in a submission he read to the inquiry, said he had a good working relationship with Dames, and if he had any concern, “he should have called me.”
Asked by evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara on how he viewed the cost of state capture to the South African economy, Gigaba said it was a proven fact that allegations of corruption and misspending had a direct, swift impact on the economy. - additional reporting by ANA
African News Agency/ANA