Johannesburg - The former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile has painted a chilling picture of the hours after Nhlanhla Nene's firing as finance minister on December 9, 2015, and his replacement by Des van Rooyen.
Even before van Rooyen was sworn in as Minister of Finance, a man purporting to be his advisor had already begun issuing instructions to Fuzile and the Treasury's head of communications, Phumeza Macanda.
Fuzile said he was invited to van Rooyen's swearing-in ceremony at the Union Buildings on December 10. He said while walking up to the venue, a man approached him and introduced himself as Mohammed Bobat and that he was the advisor for the minister.
The former DG said he was shocked by this because advisors signed contracts with him. Bobat had not done so and he had never met him before.
"He said he is the advisor to Mr van Rooyen and I was taken aback. I was taken aback because all of the advisors the department had had during my tenure, which were not many, had signed contracts with me. That was the first astonishing thing," said Fuzile.
He said it was at the moment that he connected the dots about what he was told by the ANC's head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana who said that he would now have a "Gupta minister who would bring his own advisors".
"He was not saying he was going to be an advisor, he was saying with authority that he is. The second element of my surprise gets to the point that all of a sudden about what I had heard and I thought there must be truth in everything that Mr Godongwana said the previous evening," said Fuzile. "I was really surprised'.
Fuzile said Bobat immediately began issuing instructions to him telling him he would need to compile a statement for the minister. Again, Fuzile was surprised because earlier when spoke to van Rooyen, he had told him that there was no need to issue a statement.
“Some who should be helping the minister (as an advisor) was demanding a statement from me,” he said
“Advisors do not issue instructions to DGs or any official. It is abnormal, it is illegal,” said Fuzile.
Fuzile had called van Rooyen early that morning informing him that he should come to the office early as former minister Nene would be in the office and it was the appropriate time that the two of them had a handover. Van Rooyen quickly dismissed this and said “I will come in my own time”.
Fuzile said this was another surprise as it went against tradition as handovers were part of the protocol.
The former DG also told the commission how van Rooyen had drafted a poor statement that did would not do enough to calm the markets regarding Nene’s dismissal and the weakening currency.
“There was a need to respond to uncertainty and say there will be policy continuity. A new minister of finance could say something carefully worded to calm the fears,” said Fuzile.
The commission also heard how van Rooyen did not bother to shake Fuzile’s hands after he was sworn in, which could have been seen by the media as a possible tense relationship between the two, Fuzile said.
Fuzile said he could sense that van Rooyen and Bobat didn’t know each other well.
In his first appearance at the department, Van Rooyen instructed Fuzile to quickly approve the contracts of Bobat as an advisor and another man, Ian Whitely, who would be the chief of staff.
Fuzile said he was shocked when van Rooyen told him he did not need to draw a contract for another man, Michael Mabaso, who was also expected to act as an advisor.
Van Rooyen replied, saying all Fuzile had to was to do his job, but Fuzile replied that he needed to familiarize himself with the ministerial handbook which dictates the role of minister and appointments.
Whitely and Bobat were reported to have ties with the Gupta family.
The inquiry continues.IOL