Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel at the Zondo Commission during the morning session. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Former Cabinet minister Trevor Manuel told the Zondo Inquiry on Thursday that the expansion of the executive by former president Jacob Zuma had "exploded Cabinet".

Manuel said that there were significant changes in how Cabinet appointments were made in October 2010 during one of Zuma's largest reshuffles which resulted in 10 ministerial changes while seven ministers were fired.

He cited how Zuma's splitting of certain ministries into two and creating new ones had bloated government, and how the appointment of Bathabile Dlamini and Malusi Gigaba to Cabinet had changed the norms of the executive. 

Zuma is believed to have replaced reluctant ministerial with pliable ones in Cabinet at the behest of the Gupta family to further their business interests with government. 

"It exploded Cabinet. From 2009 new positions were created with the splitting of ministries and creation of others," Manuel said.

"Virtually every position had a deputy minister with others having two deputy ministers in some instances. The was an opportunity for patronage when you expand Cabinet in the way this happened."

Manuel said that in terms of section 85 of the Constitution, there is a requirement that the president applies rational standards in the appointment of Cabinet ministers, but there was nothing wrong with having consultation on who to appoint.

For example, he said that former president Thabo Mbeki informed him of his reappointment as finance minister in 1999 in the presence of Kgalema Motlanthe, but that he was asked not to inform anyone before the official announcement. 

"There must be [an] objective test for rationality. There is a commitment to advance the republic and to be faithful to the republic. If those words lose meaning, then conduct might not follow," Manuel said.

"The issue of consultation requires an interpretation of the oath of office of the head of State, what advances the republic." 

Manuel also confirmed that former Cabinet minister Fikile Mbalula had confessed during an African National Congress national executive committee meeting in August 2011 that he was told by the Guptas of his appointment as sports minister. 

Mbalula was appointed the minister of sports and recreation from being a deputy minister of police on November 1, 2010, and only made the alleged confession almost a year later. Manuel said Zuma was present during this confession but did not have any reaction to the news.

"There was intense discussion about the influence of the Guptas in response to what started out as a political overview. When it came to opportunity for Mbalula to speak, he became very emotional. I'm not saying that he cried because I'm trying to humiliate him but it was exceedingly emotional," Manuel said.

"He said he was called to Saxonwold and was told by the Guptas. At first, he was very excited about making it into Cabinet because there is a sense of promotion. But in retrospect, he agreed that it should not have been the Guptas who told him. It was the prerogative of the president and that prerogative had been violated."

Manuel's testimony proceeded into the lunch break adjournment and another former Cabinet minister Siphiwe Nyanda is expected to take the stand when he is done.

African News Agency (ANA)