Johannesburg - The governing African National Congress (ANC), its alliance partners and the then ANC Youth League led by Julius Malema launched an attack on former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan as they pushed for the embattled Simphiwe Gama to be appointed Transnet CEO, Hogan told the state capture commission on Monday.
Hogan testified that then communications minister Siphiwe Nyanda and the now Energy Minister Jeff Radebe also made public statements that Gama should become CEO, even though the latter faced misconduct charges as head of Transnet Freight Rail.
Nyanda went further and told a weekly newspaper that Gama was "being persecuted like [former president Jacob] Zuma had been".
Hogan told commission chairman Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that the pro-Zuma faction treated her with disdain for not agreeing to appoint Gama at the time. The former president had pushed for Gama "and no one else" to be appointed CEO.
"I was cast as an anti-transformation racist who did not appreciate the necessity for transformation in this country...that really offended me. I expected better from my colleagues who knew my history, including Minister Radebe with whom I served in the ANC when he was a secretary in Natal. Zuma never protected me, he had defended other ministers...but in this instance, the president hung me out to dry," she said.
Zuma blocked the Transnet board's recommendation that the now Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko be appointed and he withdrew a Cabinet memo to discuss the candidate choice, she said.
Former Transnet CEO Maria Ramos had left the company, and a CEO needed to be appointed. Hogan testified that she was concerned about the instability at Transnet as the positions of board chairperson, CEO, and chief financial officer (CFO) were all acting positions, and not permanent.
"The memo was withdrawn and not set for Cabinet's agenda. The president said it was not going to work and instructed the Cabinet secretariat to withdraw the memo. The president instead told Cabinet he wanted three names for transport chairperson...he was not prepared to discuss Mr Maseko's merits, he simply wanted Gama... he said Gama was being persecuted," she said.
The drumbeat for Gama gained momentum as some Cabinet ministers and party leaders went publicly to canvass for him.
Chris Wells, who was Transnet CEO at the time, suffered public humiliation as the Zuma faction claimed that Gama was being sidelined in favour of a white candidate.
Hogan said she was alarmed by the interest in only Gama, and that the interest seemed to go beyond that of Transnet as a company.
The then ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu said Gama was an experienced black executive, and that there was nothing wrong with the party discussing successions at SOEs.
"Minister Radebe said Gama's suspension [over the misconduct at Transnet] was a miscarriage of justice. There were several misinformation and falsehoods spread publicly that there were two people recommended while there was just one recommendation [of Maseko] right through."
Malema's ANCYL issued a statement calling for the immediate appointment of Gama. The organisation claimed there were attempts by the board to isolate Gama "and deny him the opportunity" of becoming CEO. The league said any attempt to "isolate and persecute Gama will be met with massive resistance from the youth of SA", Hogan read out the press statement.
The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), an affiliate of Congress of the SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) followed suit. Its then secretary general Randall Howard claimed there was a "dirty tricks campaign" to discredit Gama publicly and questioned the timing of the misconduct charges Gama faced.
Howard labelled the Transnet board as "the Carlton Centre cabal" hellbent on ensuring that Gama never becomes CEO. Hogan said Cosatu itself never said anything publicly about the Transnet issue.
"There were often headline stories in newspapers which said I did not have the confidence of Cabinet and that I should go. There was a lot of pressure put on me publicly to accede to their demands, whoever it was that did that. Also, certain senior black executives threatened to walk out if Gama was appointed," Hogan said.
"Chairman, this [Transnet] is not a little shop, it is a company that is important for the whole country. I tried to engage the whole government on this -- and some even went to [then president Kgalema] Motlanthe on this...I count no less that 18 times in six months that the Transnet board tried to engage government. Would any shareholder withhold, postpone and not appoint a CEO and board for over a year? No," she said.
"How are we treating senior professional people whom we appointed to a board and treat them as if they were part of a conspiracy to do whatever is wrong and against transformation...that board's majority was black and fine professional people, and yet they were castigated."
Four of the board members resigned as they could not handle being in the firing line and face Gama supporters, she said.
The former minister said the relationship between government and state should be examined.
She will continue testifying on Tuesday.
Read more State Capture Inquiry stories here.
African News Agency (ANA)