Michael Hulley, Sassa and all the other dodgy deals

Michael Hulley has had to manoeuvre craftily through controversy ever since he was appointed as Jacob Zuma’s legal adviser, having defended the president in all his court cases. Now Hulley is being seen as a player in the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) grants debacle.

Hulley has been Zuma’s adviser in the presidency for the past six years and in that time he has been at Zuma’s side through the spy tapes saga and the allegations of “state capture”.

The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Hulley had attended two Sassa meetings in December and allegedly pushed for Cash Paymaster Service (CPS) to continue providing its services to the social security agency. CPS distributes grants on behalf of Sassa to 17-million South Africans, but the Constitutional Court ruled in 2014 that the contract is unlawful – but extended it to March 21 so that the agency could get its pay method in order.

The Sassa meetings aren’t the first time Hulley’s been involved in suspicious dealings. These are some of the other occasions:

1. Spy tapes
Hulley played a pivotal role in the National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) decision to withdraw corruption and fraud charges against Zuma in 2009. Tapes which allegedly showed political interference in the handling of Zuma’s case between former Scorpions boss Leonard McCarthy and former NPA boss Bulelani Ngcuka were handed to Hulley.

Hulley refused to reveal who had leaked the tapes to him, citing professional privilege. The Democratic Alliance’s Dianne Kohler-Barnard laid criminal charges against Hulley that related to the possession and distribution of the allegedly illegal tape recording.

2. Aurora Mines
Directors at Aurora Empowerment Systems have been steeped in controversy since 2009. Although Hulley was alleged to be a key player, he disputed that he was ever a director at the company. According to an affidavit filed in the court case related to Aurora, Hulley’s responsibilites included overseeing press releases and insurance matters at Aurora. 

While at Aurora, Hulley worked with the president’s nephew, Khulubuse Zuma. It was also at this time that he became Zuma’s adviser in the presidency.

3. State capture
Zuma and Hulley’s meeting with former public protector Thuli Madonsela during the state capture investigation went viral after an audio of their discussion was leaked. In the recording, Madonsela can be heard asking Hulley to allow Zuma to answer questions directly, and saying that it was unusual for Hulley to represent Zuma rather than provide legal advice.

At one point, Madonsela accused Hulley of attempting to bully her.

4. Sassa’s R10-billion tender
In 2012, Sassa appointed Hulley as a “strategic adviser … to ensure the transparency and accountability of the tender process”. Hulley was responsible for helping to manage a tender process where CPS was eventually awarded a R10-billion tender

Questions about Sassa’s irregular expenditure in awarding the tender remain unanswered.

It also remains unclear how Hulley has become enmeshed in Sassa’s current grants crisis and if his representation there is personal or professional.

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