‘Zuma pushed for deal’

Gord­han: ‘He tried to make me do what Myeni wanted’

The Witness - - NEWS -

FOR­MER pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma called Pravin Gord­han, then Fi­nance min­is­ter, in 2015 to try and con­vince him to agree to an enor­mously ex­pen­sive deal with air­plane man­u­fac­turer Air­bus be­cause his close friend Dudu Myeni wanted it.

In his 68-page sworn state­ment de­liv­ered to the ju­di­cial com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture, Gord­han de­tails a phone call he re­ceived from Zuma in which the then head of state im­plored his Fi­nance min­is­ter to agree to buy Air­bus pas­sen­ger planes in­stead of leas­ing them.

“In late De­cem­ber 2015, while driv­ing on the N2 high­way in Cape Town, I re­ceived a tele­phone call from for­mer pres­i­dent Zuma en­quir­ing whether we could do what Ms Myeni wanted with re­spect to the Air­bus deal. I ex­plained that we could not … It was clear to me that Ms Myeni con­tacted the for­mer pres­i­dent and that had prompted his call to me,” Gord­han re­calls.

Myeni, a very close friend of Zuma who also chaired his char­i­ta­ble foun­da­tion, was chair­per­son of SAA’s board at the time and had been at log­ger­heads with Nh­lanhla Nene, who Zuma dis­missed as Fi­nance min­is­ter shortly be­fore the phone call to Gord­han. Nene re­fused — and Gord­han agreed — to en­ter into an agree­ment with Air­bus, which would see the em­bat­tled na­tional car­rier buy­ing a num­ber of air­craft.

The agree­ment was sub­se­quently adapted whereby SAA would lease, rather than buy, the planes. Myeni, how­ever, wanted SAA to buy the planes, sell them and lease them back from a lo­cal com­pany.

In Gord­han’s state­ment, Zuma emerges as an ever-present ac­tor in the decade­long state cap­ture project, of­ten in­ter­ven­ing di­rectly and unusu­ally in deals and projects in­volv­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of nu­clear power, PetroSA’s aborted agree­ment to pur­chase a share of En­gen and the es­tab­lish­ment of Denel Asia, a Gupta proxy com­pany.

Gord­han says Zuma took “pro­found in­ter­est” in “or­di­nary trans­ac­tional mat­ters” and that the lev­els of per­sonal in­ter­est the then pres­i­dent showed in cer­tain projects could point to a pat­tern that could help to un­der­stand how state cap­ture worked.

Gord­han iden­ti­fies the nu­clear agree­ment with Rus­sia as one that Zuma “made it clear” he wanted to pro­ceed. Zuma re­it­er­ated his po­si­tion at a later meet­ing be­tween him, Gord­han and of­fi­cials from Trea­sury and the Depart­ment of En­ergy.

A sim­i­lar pat­tern was fol­lowed when there was a push for PetroSA to pur­chase a stake in En­gen held by Malaysian com­pany Petronas. When Trea­sury in­sisted a due dili­gence in­ves­ti­ga­tion be un­der­taken on in­ter­ested par­ties be­fore it could is­sue a gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee, Zuma called Gord­han di­rectly and en­quired about the sta­tus of the project. Ac­cord­ing to Gord­han, red flags were raised be­cause there seemed to be “a re­luc­tance and even avoid­ance” to do due dili­gence.

Zuma also re­fused to do any­thing to break the dead­lock be­tween him and then com­mis­sioner of SARS Tom Moy­ane, Gord­han says. Ac­cord­ing to him, the an­i­mos­ity was so bad that Moy­ane even re­fused to sub­mit re­quests for leave to Gord­han and that he res­o­lutely re­fused to sub­mit him­self to the min­is­ter’s au­thor­ity. “The for­mer pres­i­dent did noth­ing to in­ter­vene in the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tion­ship, to fa­cil­i­tate ad­ju­di­ca­tion of the dis­pute or to re­solve it any other less for­mal way ...”

And when Gord­han was tar­geted by the Hawks’ com­man­der Bern­ing Ntle­meza, the then head of state also seem­ingly sat back to watch events un­fold. — News24.

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