Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the Zondo commission. Picture: MASI LOSI
Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi at the Zondo commission. Picture: MASI LOSI

Former president Jacob Zuma auctioned off his executive power to the Guptas, former cabinet minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi told the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.

The former minister said that was how he described the situation when he raised the issue in a meeting of the ANC's national executive committee (NEC) meeting, when the party was debating Zuma's removal.

Ramatlhodi served as mineral resources minister under Zuma as well as public service and administration minister. He was eventually axed from the cabinet in 2017 in the same late-night reshuffle as Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

The former minister gave the commission the first real insight into how the ANC's NEC operated under Zuma and the power he wielded within the party.

Ramatlhodi said when the NEC started raising concerns around the Gupta family, Zuma said they were his friends and had helped his sons Duduzane and Edward. Duduzane Zuma is a business associate of the Guptas and was a director of many of their companies.

He said Zuma would not budge on the Guptas during these meetings.

For the first time on the record, Ramatlhodi said that Zuma would close NEC meetings with his own views, not that of the collective, and those were the decisions that would be carried forward. 

This is how he neutralised the debate on the Guptas. 

Ramatlhodi said that time in the ANC could be characterised as a “season of madness”.

An example was when the ANC decided to take “collective responsibility” for the mistakes Zuma had made.

"In my view, [Zuma] had too much power in the NEC."

This painted a different picture from the one former ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe tried to portray in his evidence to the commission on Tuesday.

Ramatlhodi said factions within the party were enhanced under Zuma, and a particular faction — led by the former president himself — ran the show.

Ramatlhodi said if the Zuma-led faction could not impose decisions on the NEC, then Zuma himself would do it. 

“There was paralysis in the NEC. The balance of power in the NEC was in his favour,” he said.

After deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo asked Ramatlhodi why it had taken the ANC so long to take action against Zuma, he replied that it took the 2018 Nasrec conference to change the balance of power in the party.

Zuma was forced to resign as president of the country in February, after the ANC, under the leadership of Cyril Ramaphosa, finally took the decision to recall him.

quintalg@businesslive.co.za