NEED TO SPEAK TO NUMBER ONE?
How the president’s valet has become his closest confidant
You have to call George
Zuma will agree with the one not following protocol because he operates like that ANC insider
Do you want to have the president’s ear? Call George.
That is the mantra in government corridors and ANC circles these days as they watch President Jacob Zuma’s 34-year-old personal aide, George Moloisi, gain increasing power and influence over Mahlamba Ndlopfu.
Officially his job is that of a valet — whose responsibilities include waking up the president every morning, taking care of his laundry and ensuring that his meals are prepared to his liking.
The Americans refer to the person who does this job as a “bodyman” — a position made famous by a character called Charlie Young in the US TV political drama, The West Wing.
But Moloisi is now accused of abusing the close proximity he has to the president.
This week, as anger grew within the ruling party’s inner circle over Zuma’s latest cabinet reshuffle, senior party leaders, cabinet ministers and their deputies were pointing at Moloisi and newly appointed Energy Minister David Mahlobo as the two people the president now listens to the most.
Moloisi was first seconded by the Defence Department to Zuma’s presidential team in 2009 as a medic. But he is said to have used his seemingly low-ranking post to make himself the most influential person in the Presidency — a go-to guy for those seeking an audience with Zuma.
Moloisi is now stationed at Zuma’s presidential residence Mahlamba Ndlopfu in Pretoria. He sees to the president’s personal needs, controls who sees him and has become a player in pushing away Zuma’s detractors.
Insiders say he is the first person to see the president in the morning and the last person to see him at night.
“He sees to everything the Old Man [Zuma] needs . . . he stays there in Pretoria,” the source said.
He is also thought to be the connection between Zuma and convicted criminals Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie in the controversial $400-million deal with PetroSA to develop oil and gas blocks off the Cape south coast. Kunene and McKenzie went to Russia with Mahlobo and are poised to become the BEE partners of the Russian state oil company.
Moloisi apparently has been to Russia on a number of occasions with Mahlobo, during his tenure as state security minister, for discussions on nuclear issues.
Yesterday he refused to answer questions, saying: “We are not required by law to speak to the media. Call the president’s spokesperson and pose those questions to him and he will answer you.”
Most trusted aide
An insider labelled him as Zuma’s most trusted aide, while another said: “The problem is you know how No 1 is. He will agree with the one who is not following protocol because he likes to operate like that. You can’t do that when you are president.”
ANC officials, cabinet ministers and senior government officials can only meet Zuma for an unscheduled and informal meeting if Moloisi agrees to it.
“Before, if an ANC leader called him, he would get you some time with the president. Now it has become so difficult. Many people don’t go there anymore,” complained a senior ANC leader.
They say Moloisi often ignores the president’s scheduled diary.
“Especially when the president is travelling. He stays at a hotel and he [Moloisi] will allow who can come see the president and who can’t,” the source said.
He said that while a visit to the president’s residence was more formal, access to him was a lot easier when he was travelling.
Government insiders have previously claimed that it was Moloisi who submitted the name of former Patriotic Alliance Johannesburg metro councillor Leanne Williams to the Energy Ministry to be included on the PetroSA board in July.
Williams is close to McKenzie and Kunene.
Gayton McKenzie, also a friend.
Kenny Kunene, a friend of Moloisi.