State capture inquiry: Van Rooyen told staff 'things will be done differently'
JOHANNESBURG - Des Van Rooyen did not waste anytime and told National Treasury officials that "things will be done differently" just 12 hours after he was appointed finance minister by former president Jacob Zuma, the state capture commission of inquiry heard on Friday.
Current Treasury director-general Dondo Mogajane gave evidence after former director-general Lungile Fuzile.
Mogajane confirmed to the commission that Van Rooyen appeared to not be familiar with his two Gupta appointees -- Ian Whitely and Mohamed Bobat -- at a meeting after he was sworn in as minister.
Zuma fired Nhlanhla Nene in December 2015, and replaced him with backbencher member of Parliament (MP) Van Rooyen, leading to the plummeting of the rand.
"We arrived in the big boardroom. He [Van Rooyen] was with two gentlemen I had never met before. He said he just wanted to say hi to us... and that things were going to change at Treasury -- things were going to be done differently. He said we were going to be accessible to rural areas and people," said Mogajane.
"He started introducing the two gentlemen...he couldn't remember their names. One of the gentlemen corrected him and said 'No no no...I am the adviser'. I would have expected Mr Van Rooyen to explain in detail the profiles of his chief of staff [Whitley], where he was from and his qualifications -- I do not think he was familiar with the two men."
Mogajane said the then director-general Fuzile went on to introduce all Treasury officials and their positions. Mogajane was deputy director-general responsible for the public finance division at the time.
The beginning of "Nenegate" shook markets and sent the rand plunging, prompting Zuma to remove Van Rooyen within 48 hours. He replaced him with Pravin Gordhan in an effort to calm the markets ahead of Monday when trading opens.
Mogajane said he was saddened by Nene's dismissal as it was unnecessary and cost the country billions of rands in market investments.
Treasury's estimated that at least 148,000 jobs were lost, he added.
"The Johannesburg Stock Exchange's market capitalisation was wiped off by about R378 billion and the GDP [gross domestic product] lost 1.1% by the end of that financial year. The impact of this catastrophe is still being felt today in the country...the [Johannesburg Stock Exchange] JSE hasn't recovered that lost market capitalisation."
Evidence leader advocate Vincent Maleka inquired about the extent of business the Gupta family did with government and how much they made.
Former deputy finance minister Mcebisis Jonas testified that the Guptas boasted to him about how they made R6 billion out of government contracts, and wanted to increase the rake-in to R8 billion. Jonas said he was offered him R600 million bribe and Nene's position of finance minister back in 2015 by the controversial family.
Mogajane replied that he has initiated an investigation into the "Gupta empire" and the revenue they generated from the State between 2013 and 2015, and would make the information available to the commission as soon as the probe is done.
Mogajane joined Treasury 1999. He was appointed acting director-general after Fuzile's departure in 2017 and later assumed the permanent position.
* Receive IOL's top stories via Whatsapp by sending your name to 0745573535.
African News Agency (ANA)