Zuma Meddled in Transnet, Eskom Board Appointments, Probe Hears

(Bloomberg) -- Former South African President Jacob Zuma rode roughshod over due process when he sought to influence the appointment of top officials at state companies and was backed up by senior members of the ruling African National Congress, according to a former cabinet minister who was in charge of overseeing the entities.

Barbara Hogan, who served as public enterprises minister from May 2009 to October 2010, told a commission of inquiry that’s probing the alleged looting of taxpayer funds during Zuma’s almost nine-year rule that he stripped her of her authority and she believes she was fired for refusing to do his bidding.

Zuma, who was forced to quit in February under pressure from the ANC, has denied wrongdoing.

Key highlights of Hogan’s testimony:

  • Zuma insisted on appointing Siyabonga Gama as head of the country’s ports and freight rail utility Transnet SOC Ltd. even though he was facing misconduct charges.
  • Its board had recommended that the post be given to Sipho Maseko, who was head of southern African operations for BP Plc at the time.
  • The ANC, its youth league, two cabinet ministers and the South African Transport Union all issued statements in support of Gama, alleging he was being persecuted.
  • Zuma was furious when the board of state power utility Eskom Holdings Ltd. decided to replace Jacob Maroga as chief executive officer, and ordered Hogan to ensure he be reinstated.
  • Zuma sought to influence board appointments at the state-owned South African Forestry Company, and instructed Hogan to withdraw a memorandum to the cabinet that recommended possible candidates.
  • Hogan was told not to make any major decisions about the state companies until the panel that was established by Zuma in May 2010 to review their operations had completed its work.
  • Jet Airways lobbied state-owned South African Airways to halt all flights to Mumbai. SAA announced a code-sharing agreement with the Indian carrier on its flights to Mumbai in 2013 and two years later it stopped operating on the route.
  • There was a lack of professionalism in Zuma’s office, his housekeeper sometimes organized meetings and aides weren’t always present, Hogan said.
  • Zuma’s conduct hurt state-owned companies and harmed the reputations of a number of its officials, she testified.
  • Hogan was offered the post of ambassador to Finland after she was fired from the cabinet, but she declined the job.

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