NEED TO SPEAK TO NUM­BER ONE?

How the pres­i­dent’s valet has be­come his clos­est con­fi­dant

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By QAANITAH HUNTER and MZILIKAZI WA AFRIKA

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.

Go-to guy

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.

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