Former finance minister Des van Rooyen. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Former finance minister Des van Rooyen. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Former finance minister Des van Rooyen’s supposed adviser Mohamed Bobat seemed to have unprecedented authority and had to be warned that things would be done “by the book”.

This was according to former National Treasury chief director of communications, Phumza Macanda, who was testifying at the state capture inquiry on Monday.

Macanda was telling the commission about the time that Nhlanhla Nene was axed as finance minister in December 2015 and replaced by little-known ANC backbencher Van Rooyen.

Van Rooyen had arrived at the Treasury with two advisers — Bobat and Ian Whitley.

Macanda said she met Bobat on the day of Van Rooyen’s swearing in at the Union Buildings. She described him as hostile and aggressive.

Macanda was at the Union Buildings so that she could consult with Van Rooyen regarding a media statement. 

She said Bobat asked her what her job was, and when she explained, he told her that no media statements were to be issued without his approval. 

“He was a little aggressive with me ... his manner was almost aggressive and hostile,” she told the commission.

“As I understood the role of an adviser, I didn’t understand it to include being part of approving statements. Advisers are privy to discussions but certainly not approving statements.”

Macanda also told the commission about the “bizarre” interaction she witnessed between Van Rooyen and Bobat at the Union Buildings.

She said Bobat had chastised Van Rooyen for not answering his phone when he had tried to call him. Van Rooyen had responded that he did not have Bobat’s number and the two exchanged numbers in front of her. 

“I was flabbergasted to say the least ... Firstly I was shocked by his manner towards the minister [which was] contentious and dismissive. I was left with impression they did not know each other, and if they did they did not know each other very well,” she said.

At another meeting with Treasury officials just after Van Rooyen’s swearing in, Macanda said the new minister indicated that everything that happened at the Treasury would have to be approved by Bobat and Whitley. 

This angered then director-general Lungisa Fuzile.

“The DG [director general] was quite angry ... he pointed his finger [at Van Rooyen and his advisers] and said ‘here we do everything by the book’,” Macanda said.

Macanda said she did not know where Bobat was deriving his authority from, but within two minutes of meeting him, he made it very clear that he had the authority. 

quintalg@businesslive.co.za