Former director of communications at National Treasury Phumza Macanda. Picture: Dimpho Maja/ African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - The former director of communications at National Treasury has told the Zondo commission that former minister Des van Rooyen's advisor went to great lengths to assert his power and often appeared aggressive and abusive.

Phumza Macanda, the former head of communications at Treasury, said Mohamed Bobat did not appear to know the rules and protocols at Treasury and did not seem to care to follow them.

She was testifying at the inquiry on Monday.

The former public servant said her first interaction with Bobat was at van Rooyen's swearing-in ceremony at the Union Buildings, a day after Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister on December 9, 2015.

Macanda said she was approached by Bobat before the ceremony who introduced himself as the minister's advisor and immediately told her that every statement she was going to draft in future had to go through him as the advisor to the minister.
 
This was an unusual request as every statement drafted at Treasury would go through various channels and with consultation with the minister, but it was unusual for an advisor to make such a request, she told the inquiry.

Macanda said another strange request was when Bobat tried to interfere with the Treasury's recruitment process to fill a vacant post.

"I was explaining to him the structure of the communication unit and that we had started with the recruitment process for the director of media relations and communications. He said to me 'no you need to stop that'," Macanda said.

"I told him that I could not authorise that and that he had to be dealing with the director general. I also found that meeting unusual as his role as an advisor did not include him being involved in the process of the department and the HR process of the department."

Macanda said she later told then director-general Lungisa Fuzile about the interaction, and Fuzile was angry.

Bobat also demanded that Macanda shut down a fake Twitter account that was purporting to be van Rooyen. Macanda was at pains to explain that she could not shut down the page as she did not create it, but Bobat refused to accept her explanation.

Macanda said it was clear Bobat had no respect for rules and had no intention of learning.

"With my interaction with him, I got the sense that he was ignorant of the rules, but he was also not interested in what the rules were. But even if the rules were there he would disregard them and he would make new rules. I had explained to him when he wanted to stop the recruitment process, I explained to him that I was not authorised to do that, but that he was not interested," said Macanda.

Bobat also attempted to remove a Treasury official from his office so that he could occupy it, this was after it was explained to him that advisors sat at a different part of the building.

"He was telling people to move so that he could sit as close to the minister as possible," said Macanda.

When asked where she thought Bobat derived his powers, Macanda said it was unclear but he made everyone feel that he had it even though he was an advisor for a short period of time.

"I do not know where Mr Bobat derived his power from, but in the first two minutes I had met him, he made it very clear that he had authority. Where he derived it from I do not know," said Macanda.

The former director also confirmed what Fuzile and current director-general Dondo Mogajane had told the inquiry, that van Rooyen appeared as if he did not know his advisors prior to his appointment.

Macanda also explained how van Rooyen did not grasp the importance of calming the markets and investors following Nene's firing. Even after he was advised that a comprehensive statement had to be drafted, van Rooyen insisted on a statement that did very little to assure investors.

"He did not seem welcoming to the request that the DG had been making about the markets," she said.

The inquiry continues with the testimony of former GCIS head Mzwanele Manyi.

* Read more stories from the state capture inquiry here.

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