After explosives revelations of interference in the affairs of South Africa’s rail freight company by some of the highest-ranking politicians in the country, Christopher Todd, director of law firm Bowman Gilfillan, will continue giving Transnet-related evidence at the commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture today.
On Wednesday, the Zondo commission heard that then president Jacob Zuma and public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba had pressured Transnet to reinstate fired chief executive Siyabonga Gama to one of its subsidiaries.
Evidence heard at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture revealed that this was despite Gama failing in his challenge of his dismissal for irregularly awarding tenders at the Transnet Bargaining Council and in his bid to have the South Gauteng High Court declare that only the full Transnet board could take the decisions to bring disciplinary proceedings against him or to authorise his suspension.
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Siyabulela Mapoma, former general manager: group legal services at Transnet Group Capital, told the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that then acting Transnet chief executive Mafika Mkhwanazi informed him that he was acting on the Presidency’s instructions to reinstate Gama as Transnet Freight Rail (TFR) chief executive.
“He also had instructions from elsewhere to reinstate Gama,” Mapoma said, adding that Mkhwanazi notified him of the pressure he was placed under to effect the reinstatement.
Mapoma continued: “He (Mkhwanazi) said the instruction was from higher up, higher than the minister (Gigaba)”.
However, according to Mapoma, Gama was not prepared to return to his position as TFR chief executive but wanted to become the Transnet chief executive and replace Maria Ramos, who had vacated the position in February 2009.
Mapoma said Mkhwanazi asked him to assist him to bring back Gama.
“I think he had board approval to reinstate Gama. He wanted to do this cleanly in light of the fact that Gama had been dismissed,” he said.
According to Mapoma, Gama wanted to be reinstated as chief executive of Transnet, but Mkhwanazi was refusing.
Instead, Mkhwanazi was proposing that Gama be reinstated as TFR chief executive and also offered to make him group executive in the chairperson’s office, which he also held at the time.
Mapoma testified that Gigaba’s former special adviser Siyabonga Mahlangu called him twice, accusing Transnet of delaying reinstatement of Gama, and blamed him.
He said Mahlangu told him to ensure that “this thing” (Gama’s reinstatement) was sped up.
“I was very stern. I told him I was not answerable to him, Gigaba, and the president,” said Mapoma, adding that he instructed Mahlangu to talk to Mkhwanazi.
Mahlangu indicated to Mapoma that there was concern about the delay from Gigaba and Zuma, the inquiry heard.
Mapoma said Mahlangu did not mention Zuma by name, but it was clear that he was referring to the former president.
“He referred to ‘number one’,” Mapoma recalled Mahlangu having told him.
He said he found the involvement of the Presidency to be quite strange.
In his response read by evidence leader Anton Myburgh SC, Mahlangu denied calling Mapoma.
“The support that Mapoma gave to NMR Attorneys and the intersection between one of our social circles, the nature of my social interaction with him forbade me from being rude to him and putting any pressure on him,” Mahlangu said.
He continued: “This would have resulted in a backlash in an important friendship circle and would have adversely affected my standing as an attorney among the community of lawyers in that social circle.”