Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi. Picture: Dimpho Maja/ African News Agency (ANA)
Johannesburg - Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi on Wednesday gave explosive evidence at the commission of inquiry into state capture, likening former president Jacob Zuma’s relationship with the Guptas to auctioning off his executive authority.

Ramatlhodi told the commission headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Zuma gave executive authority to third parties.

“That is the biggest sin he has done,” he said.

Ramatlhodi said the ANC national executive committee (NEC) asked Zuma in vain what he was doing with the controversial family.

“These people are my friends, they helped my children when I was persona non grata by giving them work,” Ramatlhodi recalled Zuma telling NEC members.

Ramatlhodi, who was the speech-writer and private secretary to the ANC’s longest-serving president OR Tambo, has been a member of the party’s NEC since 1991.

He said some of the things Zuma was doing were irrational and his proximity to the Guptas and the damage it was doing to him and the ANC was discussed not once in the ANC but several times.

”We did not know the hold they had over him. The Guptas were like a python wrapped around Zuma,” the former Limpopo premier said.

According to Ramatlhodi, Zuma failed the country and had to leave before he did more damage.

He said earlier this year when the ANC decided to oust Zuma it was prepared to remove him by “force” using its majority in Parliament if he refused to step down.

Ramatlhodi said Zuma’s first term was okay but during his second “something happened” as both head of state and ANC president.

He said the rot started after Zuma’s re-election at the ANC’s national conference in December 2012.

Zuma, according to Ramatlhodi, had a very strong faction in the NEC and some of them were beneficiaries of state capture.

“He had too much power in the NEC. That period was a season of madness in the organisation.

“The balance of power was in his favour,” he said, adding that the NEC under Zuma was paralysed.

Ramatlhodi said the ANC under President Cyril Ramaphosa was undergoing renewal in an attempt to break the back of factions.

“It’s not going to be easy. A faction grows like a tree, it has roots,” he warned. Ramatlhodi was removed as mineral resources minister in September 2015 following his defiance of the Guptas and their associates and “promoted” to the public service and administration portfolio as Zuma described.

He refused requests to meet Ajay Gupta at the insistence of the former president’s son Duduzane Zuma.

Duduzane told his father that Ramatlhodi was bad-mouthing him and his business partners, claiming they were involved in criminal activity.

Ramatlhodi said he met Duduzane about six months after his appointment as mineral resources minister in May 2014 and informed him that he would also tell Zuma about his response.

He contacted his special adviser Mahlodi Muofhe and they both refused to meet the Guptas.

At the time, there was also a request to then director-general Dr Thibedi Ramontja by The New Age for the department to increase the number of copies it purchased and again Ramatlhodi refused.

Soon after Ramatlhodi was “promoted” to public service and administration minister, the Guptas bought Glencore’s Optimum Coal mine in Mpumalanga that supplied coal to Eskom’s power station in Hendrina.

Muofhe, who is currently the Special Investigating Unit’s chief governance officer, testified that Zuma had wanted to appoint him the head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to replace Mxolisi Nxasana. He said he was shocked Zuma wanted to appoint him NPA boss but felt honoured.

Muofhe said he felt Nxasana was doing a great job but Zuma wanted to fire him for prosecuting his then deputy Nomgcobo Jiba.

The Star