Former finance minister Trevor Manuel. Screengrab.

Johannesburg - Former finance minister Trevor Manuel says when former minister Fikile Mbalula confessed about his "Gupta appointment" he was concerned about the president's prerogative being violated by the Guptas. 

Manuel told the commission that in an ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting in 2011 Fikile Mbalula emotionally spoke about how he was told by the Guptas that he would be appointed as the minister of sports and recreation. 

Mbalula was appointed as minister of sports in 2010. 

He said Mbalula said he was called to the Gupta's Saxonwold compound where the incident took place. Mbalula said he was excited about the appointment but in retrospect realised that the president's prerogative had been violated, Manuel told the commission.  

"Mbalula said when he was called to Saxonwold he was told that he was going to be appointed as the minister of sports and recreation. And he was very excited about making it into a Cabinet as it was a big promotion. In retrospect, and this was the emotional part, it should never have been Guptas or anybody else who told him, it was the prerogative of the president and that prerogative had been violated in the way the information had been shared," said Manuel. 

"I think when Mbalula appears he is likely to confirm what I said. That is my sense that the violation of the constitutional prescript in the exercise of the power of the president that had been violated by someone who knew before he was entitled to. And seemed to suggest that he had sufficient power to confer a Cabinet minister," he said.

Manual said he believed that is where Mbalula's concern stemmed from. 

In an op-ed in the Daily Maverick in 2017, Manuel wrote about the same incident and in it, he said Mbalula had said it was Atul Gupta who told him about his appointment. 

During his testimony, Manuel backtracked and said he could not tell the difference between the Gupta brothers and was not sure which brother it was but that Mbalula mentioned a Gupta. 
 
Manuel was asked by evidence leader Advocate Leah Gcabashe if Zuma, who was present at the meeting, reacted to Mbalula’s statement. He said he could not recall Zuma making any comment regarding Mbalula's confession. 

The former finance minister said he was confident that Mbalula would confirm a similar recollection of events when he appears at the inquiry. 

Manuel told the commission that he had never had an encounter or relationship with any of the Gupta brothers. He questioned why Mbalula had gone to the Saxonwold compound in the first place unless there was likely some form of relationship between him and the Guptas. 

Earlier in his testimony, Manuel outlined how appointments were conducted in the government since 1994. He said when Zuma took over as president in 2009 there was a difference. He pointed to the large Cabinet reshuffle that took place in 2010 where there were 10 ministerial changes and 7 ministers fired. 

He said the Cabinet exploded from then on and there were various ministries that were created. There were more ministers that had deputies and in some circumstances, there were two deputies. He called this as a “repurposing” and a sign of patronage. 

The inquiry continues.

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