EDITORIAL: Rotten Gigaba long past his sell-by date
The Constitutional Court has all but certified Gigaba as a liar who cannot be allowed anywhere near a position of trust
After his swift action in ridding the SA Revenue Service of Tom Moyane, President Cyril Ramaphosa almost certainly has no choice but to axe Malusi Gigaba. Ramaphosa has, in the space of a week, been handed more ammunition than he’d ever reasonably hope to need to act against the home affairs minister.
By dismissing his appeal against a high court decision that he lied to a court under oath, the Constitutional Court has all but certified Gigaba as a liar who cannot be allowed anywhere near a position of trust — let alone be the cabinet minister in charge of SA’s ports of entry through which billions of goods move. To compound it all, public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane then also found that Gigaba not only lied to a court under oath, but that by so doing he had violated the constitution and the executive ethics code.
All this relates to Gigaba’s decision to approve an application by a company owned by the Oppenheimer family, Fireblade Aviation, to operate a private terminal at OR Tambo International Airport. He then changed his mind in 2016. But problematically for him, Gigaba denied that he’d ever given that permission — which was a lie.
If only this were Ramaphosa’s only reason to axe Gigaba. But, in a preliminary report on state capture, a parliamentary committee has recommended that Gigaba be among 44 people to be investigated for the crimes of corruption and fraud that all but gutted such strategic entities as Eskom, Transnet and SA Airways (SAA). This was after extensive investigations and interviews conducted by parliament last year.
This week, Gigaba said in an interview that he wouldn’t resign. "I feel an avalanche of pressure‚ all of which seems political. A common narrative is being built up that seeks to paint me as a person who is not fit to hold public office." To resign, he said, would be to "become a victim of devious political campaigns".
But it’s not just the court judgment, which he now seems to suggest is "politically motivated".
There are other historical reasons why he should go. As the FM has reported over the years, of all the people who helped the Gupta family and Jacob Zuma in their quest to compromise the state, Gigaba towers above most other consiglieri.
When he was minister of public enterprises, for example, he appointed questionable individuals who extracted billions from Eskom, Transnet, SAA and Denel — and Gigaba then directly interfered in the strategic and operational decisions of these organisations. These stooges helped Gigaba dream up such costly ventures as the 51% BEE ownership requirement to supply coal to Eskom, when it was clear there were no credible black companies with such capacity.
And back in 2011, it was Gigaba who fired the entire Eskom board, capably led by Mpho Makwana, and replaced them with the likes of Ben Ngubane, Zola Tsotsi, Zethembe Khoza, Mark Pamensky and others.
On the same day, and without bothering to inform them, Gigaba unceremoniously fired the highly rated Mafika Mkwanazi and Sibusiso Sibisi as chairs of Transnet and Denel respectively. Their replacements included Iqbal Sharma, who had clear business interests with key Gupta lieutenants, and Zoli Kunene.
The monetary cost to the country of all these misadventures, presided over by a minister who then went on to destroy thousands of jobs in the tourism industry, is immeasurable.
As our cover story detailing Ramaphosa’s axing of Moyane illustrates, the president has done much to suggest his "new dawn" isn’t an empty concept. But one sweep doesn’t clean the kitchen. And Gigaba is now the problem.