Gama lobby guns for Maria Ramos

Sup­port­ers also claim Bar­bara Ho­gan and Trevor Manuel have been tar­get­ing the ex-Transnet boss

Mail & Guardian - - News - Sa­belo Sk­iti

The sup­port­ers of those im­pli­cated in the damn­ing ev­i­dence that for­mer pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter Bar­bara Ho­gan will present to the Zondo com­mis­sion have been mo­bil­is­ing and paint­ing Pravin Gord­han, Maria Ramos and Trevor Manuel as part of a group that rides roughshod over le­git­i­mate ANC struc­tures.

On Wed­nes­day, Ho­gan will give ev­i­dence to the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry into State Cap­ture chaired by Con­sti­tu­tional Court Deputy Chief Jus­tice Ray­mond Zondo. She will de­tail how for­mer pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, soon af­ter his elec­tion in 2009, started med­dling in the ap­point­ment of board mem­bers and ex­ec­u­tives of state-owned en­ter­prises, which led to her re­moval as min­is­ter.

Her af­fi­davit also links fired Transnet chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) Siyabonga Gama to the state cap­ture ma­chin­ery.

In her af­fi­davit de­tail­ing her 17 months in the Cab­i­net, Ho­gan says Zuma went as far as cir­cum­vent­ing Cab­i­net pro­cesses in the ap­point­ment and dis­missals of the chief ex­ec­u­tives of Transnet and Eskom.

“The con­duct of pres­i­dent Zuma and cer­tain mem­bers of his Cab­i­net in re­la­tion to Transnet and Eskom was not only neg­li­gent, it was reck­less and de­signed to frus­trate the sin­cere at­tempts of the boards of those state-owned en­ti­ties to ex­er­cise their fidu­ciary du­ties as di­rec­tors and the ex­er­cise of sound cor­po­rate gov­er­nance in their re­spec­tive state-owned en­ti­ties,” she says.

She also de­tails how she and for­mer SAA board chair­per­son Ch­eryl Caro­lus re­sisted ef­forts by the chief ex­ec­u­tive of Jet Air­ways, Naresh Goyal, to con­vince them that SAA should with­draw from its lu­cra­tive Mum­bai route, even doorstep­ping Ho­gan at a fash­ion show in In­dia dur­ing Zuma’s state visit there.

Af­ter Ho­gan was re­moved from Cab­i­net in Oc­to­ber 2010, SAA dropped the route.

State cap­ture cor­rup­tion at Transnet, in­clud­ing the con­tract for 1064 lo­co­mo­tives, which net­ted Gupta-linked in­di­vid­u­als bil­lions in un­earned fees, are at the heart of Gama’s dis­missal last month by Transnet’s new board. The util­ity also an­nounced it would sue Gama for R166-mil­lion paid to Reg­i­ments Cap­i­tal, an ad­vi­sory firm linked to state cap­ture at Transnet and Eskom.

Gama de­scribed the move as an “un­law­ful smoke­screen” and at­tempted to re­turn to work, be­fore ap­proach­ing the labour court and ask­ing it to over­turn his dis­missal.

This week, he said only that he was wait­ing for the court’s de­ci­sion.

But Gama’s back­ers claim his trou­bles re­late to 10 years of en­mity be­tween him and Absa chief ex­ec­u­tive Maria Ramos about his de­ci­sion to ap­ply for her job as Transnet chief ex­ec­u­tive CEO when Absa re­cruited her in 2009.

“She is at the cen­tre of it all … She has a deep dis­like for Siya and his only sin is that he ap­plied to be CEO [in 2009] when he left, when they wanted Pravin to be CEO. That’s why Trevor Manuel wrote a ref­er­ence let­ter for him,” said one Gama backer.

The lobby, which in­cludes peo­ple linked to Deputy Pres­i­dent David Mabuza, is also cham­pi­oning the cause of for­mer Eskom ex­ec­u­tives Brian Molefe and Mat­shela Koko.

Part of their at­tack is the nar­ra­tive that Gord­han, now the pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter, has been al­lowed to do as he pleases.

The Mail & Guardian has re­li­ably learnt that their ef­forts in­clude lob­by­ing black pro­fes­sional bod­ies such as the Black Man­age­ment Fo­rum and the As­so­ci­a­tion for Black Se­cu­ri­ties and In­vest­ment Pro­fes­sion­als (Ab­sip) for sup­port, so far with­out ap­par­ent suc­cess.

Absa spokesper­son Songezo Zibi de­scribed Ramos’s in­clu­sion in a mooted con­spir­acy as ut­ter non­sense. “Peo­ple are now cre­at­ing things out of thin air; there is noth­ing here … Maria has not been at Transnet for nine years … They are just fly­ing a kite. I re­ally do not have time for their al­le­ga­tions.”

Ho­gan’s 30-page af­fi­davit de­tails the re­cruit­ment process for a new chief ex­ec­u­tive when she ar­rived, and men­tions the 2009 in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion and dis­missal of Gama for pro­cure­ment ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

These re­late to a R847-mil­lion ten­der in 2007 to sup­ply 50 “like new” diesel lo­co­mo­tives, which was over­seen by Gama, who was Transnet’s freight rail chief ex­ec­u­tive. There was also a R20-mil­lion se­cu­rity ten­der to a com­pany owned by for­mer Cab­i­net min­is­ter Siphiwe Nyanda. Gama al­legedly had no au­thor­ity to sign the se­cu­rity con­tract.

Re­gard­ing the lo­co­mo­tives ten­der, he was found not to have fully com­plied with the board res­o­lu­tion on the con­tract and was dis­missed af­ter a dis­ci­plinary hear­ing in June 2010. But he was re­hired two years later af­ter he ap­pealed his dis­missal and also com­plained to the of­fice of the pub­lic pro­tec­tor that he was treated unfairly.

Transnet’s re­view of the dis­missal, done by au­di­tors Nkonki and KPMG, found that, although Transnet was within its right to dis­ci­pline and dis­miss Gama, it had acted in­con­sis­tently be­cause there had been no sanc­tions for other sim­i­lar trans­gres­sions, also in­volv­ing hun­dreds of mil­lions of rands.

Re­fer­ring to this re­port, the lobby ar­gues that Ramos had ini­tially dis­missed whistleblower com­plaints about Gama in 2007, and that an in­ves­ti­ga­tion only got un­der­way when he ap­plied for the po­si­tion of chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“The first time any in­ves­ti­ga­tion sur­faced against him was when the board was dis­cussing her re­place­ment. And Popo Molefe now chairs Lereko, a com­pany in which Absa owns shares. So you de­cide,” said a lob­by­ist, who did not want to be named.

Ho­gan’s ver­sion be­fore the com­mis­sion is that what should have been a sim­ple mat­ter of ap­point­ing Ramos’s suc­ces­sor at the end of Fe­bru­ary 2009 “be­came the site of an ugly pro­tracted bat­tle be­tween Pres­i­dent Zuma and I, in which he thwarted all the le­gal and le­git­i­mate pro­ce­dures that I took to ob­tain Cab­i­net ap­proval for any ap­point­ments what­so­ever to Transnet, in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of a CEO”.

She said she was shocked when Zuma, dur­ing a meet­ing with him a month af­ter her May 2009 ap­point­ment as min­is­ter, was adamant he wanted Gama hired as Transnet chief ex­ec­u­tive, even though she told him about an in­quiry po­ten­tially im­pli­cat­ing Gama in trans­gres­sions.

She said Zuma’s re­peated at­tempts to frus­trate ap­point­ment pro­cesses be­tween June 2009 and Oc­to­ber 31 2010 when Ho­gan re­signed, in­cluded:

O Ig­nor­ing a com­pre­hen­sive re­port, which in­cluded two le­gal opinions, on the process fol­lowed to hire a chief ex­ec­u­tive for Transnet in July 2009;

O In­struct­ing Ho­gan to with­draw a Cab­i­net memo to ap­point a new board for Transnet in Au­gust 2009 and ig­nor­ing an­other that was sub­mit­ted in Septem­ber 2010; and

O Dis­miss­ing Ho­gan on Oc­to­ber 31 2010 af­ter she asked that he ex­pe­dite the plac­ing of the Septem­ber memo be­fore the Cab­i­net.

The Cab­i­net even­tu­ally ap­proved a list that was sub­mit­ted by the new pub­lic en­ter­prises min­is­ter, Malusi Gi­gaba, for a new Transnet board in De­cem­ber 2010. The board in­cluded Iqbal Sharma, a key en­abler of the cap­ture of Transnet.

Two months later, the Cab­i­net ap­proved the ap­point­ment of Molefe as the new chief ex­ec­u­tive of Transnet. When Molefe was sec­onded to and then ap­pointed chief ex­ec­u­tive of Eskom in 2015, Gama be­came the new chief ex­ec­u­tive of Transnet.

“She [Ramos] has a deep dis­like for Siya and his only sin is that he ap­plied to be CEO”

Friend­ship: Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han meets for­mer min­is­ter Bar­bara Ho­gan at the me­mo­rial ser­vice for her part­ner, strug­gle icon Ahmed Kathrada, in Jo­han­nes­burg last year. Photo: Deon Raath/Gallo Im­ages/Rap­port

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