Former minister of Home Affairs Malusi Gigaba. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Former ANC deputy secretary-general Cheryl Carolus on Thursday testified that disgraced former Cabinet minister Malusi Gigaba lied to Parliament as far back as September 2012.

Carolus told the commission of inquiry into state capture, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, that the ex-ANC Youth League president effectively oversaw the running down of SAA.

She was the national carrier’s chairperson when Gigaba was appointed public enterprises minister by former president Jacob Zuma in October 2012, to replace Struggle veteran Barbara Hogan.

Carolus said Gigaba lied about a letter authorising a R5billion guarantee to SAA and misled then National Assembly speaker, Max Sisulu, about the airline’s failure to submit its 2011/12 annual report by the August31 deadline required by the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), and to hold its annual general meeting (AGM) by September30, as stipulated in the Companies Act.

According to Carolus, Gigaba’s claims were blatantly false as he was aware that the annual report was submitted to the Department of Public Enterprises, the office of the Auditor-General and regulators.

“Gigaba was at best negligent, at worst hostile to the board,” she said, adding that the risks of legal and reputational damage were high for board members.

Carolus was the chairperson of SAA’s board between 2009 and September 2012 when eight of the 12 non-executive directors resigned en masse following Gigaba’s claims to Sisulu, that he was postponing the state-owned entity’s AGM because its financial statements were not in order.

“It was inappropriate and quite a nasty view for the minister to say the SAA board was operating without a strategy,” she said.

Gigaba, according to Carolus, characterised the board as incompetent, devious and unpatriotic. Carolus hit back and demanded an explanation for Gigaba’s public statement, but he was a “typical politician” and claimed to have been quoted out of context.

She said SAA’s finances were audited without any evidence of wrongdoing during her tenure.

She said she could not understand why Gigaba did not contemplate the legal consequences of lying about the board submitting SAA’s annual report.

Carolus testified that just a few weeks after Gigaba was promoted from deputy home affairs minister he was already attempting to force SAA to abandon its Joburg-Mumbai route in favour of Indian airline, Jet Airways. Gigaba resigned earlier this month, after being found to have lied under oath, in the court case of the approval of the private terminal of the Oppenheimer family’s Fireblade Aviation at OR Tambo International Airport in January 2016.

He came under additional pressure after a video was leaked of him performing a sexual act.

Carolus testified that in December 2010 Gigaba summoned her and then SAA chief executive, Siza Mzimela, to a meeting in his office, but she (Carolus) could not attend as she had prior commitments.

She said Mzimela and then SAA board member, Zakhele Sithole, attended the meeting along with Gigaba’s then deputy, Ben Martins.

Carolus said they waited for three hours for Indian businessman and Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal, who wanted to discuss SAA pulling out of the Joburg-Mumbai route.

After the meeting, Carolus said Mzimela later told her Goyal interrogated her about the reasons for SAA’s reluctance to abandon the Joburg-Mumbai route, while Gigaba sat quietly.

It took Martins’ intervention to halt Goyal’s grilling of Mzimela, when he told one of India’s richest men that he had no business coming to South Africa and questioning the former SAA boss. Carolus said she found it strange that Gigaba waited for so long.

“A minister waiting for three hours. It seemed an indefinite wait,” she said.

The commission is expected to resume on Tuesday.

The Star