Former Minister of Public Enterprises, Barbara Hogan at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Parktown on October 10 2018. Her testimony was postponed to November 12 to give those implicated in her affidavit enough time to respond. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES
Former Minister of Public Enterprises, Barbara Hogan at the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Parktown on October 10 2018. Her testimony was postponed to November 12 to give those implicated in her affidavit enough time to respond. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL/THE SUNDAY TIMES

Former president Jacob Zuma was insistent that Siyabonga Gama be appointed Transnet's group CEO back in 2009, despite him already facing serious allegations of misconduct.

Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan made the statement at the state capture inquiry on Monday. She was detailing the role of the minister as a shareholder in state-owned entities, and whether there had been interference by former president Zuma in the appointment of boards and CEOs.

Gama was recently fired by Transnet following more allegations of wrongdoing against him, and is in a legal battle with the entity in a bid to keep his job. His axing comes after investigations found that he, former CEO Brian Molefe and Gupta associates may have acted unlawfully in relation to the purchase of 1,064 locomotives for R54bn.

Current Transnet board chair Popo Molefe and current public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan were present at the commission, which is chaired by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, on Monday.

Hogan told the commission that in November 2008, before she was appointed public enterprise minister, then Transnet CEO Maria Ramos announced that she was stepping down in February 2009.

The Transnet board had gone through a professional process to identify a suitable replacement. The first recommendation was Pravin Gordhan, but he had then withdrawn from the process and was later appointed finance minister in 2009.

The board then, after restarting the search for a new CEO,  recommended Sipho Maseko, now group CEO at Telkom.

Hogan was appointed minister in June 2009 and a month later she met Zuma to brief him on Transnet and told him that at the next AGM Maseko would be appointed.

‘‘Chair, I was extremely shocked. The president would not hear of any candidate but Siyabonga Gama,’’ Hogan testified.

‘‘I informed him how the professional selection process was, I informed him that [Gama] was facing some serious misconduct charges that the board in terms of the PFMA [Public Management Finance Act] was obliged to investigate these charges … and under these circumstances it would not be in interest of Transnet to appoint a GCEO whose time would be caught up in defending himself.’’

Hogan said she did everything she could to convince Zuma that Gama was not the right candidate because of the serious allegations against him. 

‘‘He initially wanted me to go ahead with the appointment of Mr Gama and I said I can't do that,’’ she told the commission. 

Zuma then told Hogan she was not to make any appointment at Transnet until Gama had gone through a formal disciplinary process. 

Earlier on Monday, Hogan testified that there was no legislation that allowed the president to interfere with the appointment of boards and CEOs at SOEs. 

‘‘My experience was that the president stopped things from going to cabinet, instructed me to withdraw things … but what was very worrying about that [was] in one of those instructions related to Transnet, there was a potential breach of law,’’ she had said before detailing the issues around Gama. 

She also spoke about how the ANC, as the governing party, tried to influence these appointments. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za