Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan says her sense of the working relationship she had with former president Jacob Zuma was that she was “a hindrance to him” and “didn’t enjoy his confidence”.
Hogan was continuing with testimony before the commission of inquiry into state capture — which is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — which she began on Monday.
Her evidence before the commission has primarily focused on Zuma’s alleged interference in the appointment of board members and executives in state-owned entities, which ultimately led to her dismissal when Zuma reshuffled his Cabinet in October 2010.
On Wednesday, Hogan testified about the South African Forestry Companies Limited (Safcol), which she described as the smallest state-owned enterprise that the department of public enterprises is responsible for.
She described how appointing a new chairperson for Safcol’s board was put on the agenda for an annual general meeting in 2010 but that Zuma asked her to send him the CVs of the two potential candidates. Hogan says she contacted him several times for feedback but did not receive a response.
Hogan said she put the new Safcol chairperson item on the agenda for a Cabinet meeting but that former minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane told her that Zuma wanted her to remove the item on the agenda.
Zuma eventually appointed a chairperson that Hogan had recommended. Hogan revealed how she had heard rumours the Gupta family had shown an interest in Safcol, saying she had no knowledge of this at that time.
SA to Mumbai route
Hogan continued, testifying about the South African Airways (SAA) SA-Mumbai route.
Hogan recounted how in June 2010, she was part of a delegation on a state visit to India. She accompanied the president and when she was there, she says she received information that SAA wanted to terminate the SA to Mumbai route, which she described as having shocked her.
Hogan said she was aware that there were several international routes that were running at a loss but the Mumbai route was not among them.
SAA’s Mumbai route was critical to South Africa’s trade and tourism especially because the country had just entered into the BRICS partnership, Hogan said. She said she immediately sent then SAA board chairperson Cheryl Carolus an SMS to seek clarity on the rumours.
Carolus’s response was that SAA would not be stopping this route and that Indian airline Jet Airways was probably just lobbying for the route.
Hogan recounted another incident where Jet Airways chief executive Naresh Goyal ambushed her and caused a scene at a fashion show during this same India trip. Goyal told her that he wanted to see her but didn’t say why.
In August, former ANC MP Vytie Mentor testified before the commission, saying the Gupta family offered her the position of minister of public enterprises in exchange for cancelling the SAA route to India.
In a Facebook post at the time, Mentor wrote: “But they had previously asked me to become Minister of Public Enterprises when Barbara Hogan got the chop, provided that I would drop the SAA flight-route to India and give to them. I refused and so I was never made a Minister. The President was in another room when they offered me this in Saxonworld. [sic]”
This route was eventually cancelled in 2015. The cancellation of this route was allegedly set to benefit Jet Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways.
Links to the Guptas
Hogan spoke about a time when a Daily Maverick journalist contacted her, asking about a Gupta-sponsored trip that Hogan and her late husband Ahmed Kathrada took to India. The journalist had found the email correspondence as part of the #GuptaLeaks emails.
Hogan explained this basis of this trip, saying the high commission of India had contacted Kathrada to invite him to an event commemorating Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Hogan and Kathrada were informed that the Indian high commission was organising the trip and all travel arrangements.
Hogan says when they got their flight tickets, the airline was Jet Airways and that the email correspondence included former Sahara chief executive Ashu Chawla. Hogan reiterated that the extent of their involvement with the Guptas was that Jet Airways flew them to Mumbai.
Hogan joked that she asked herself if she was going to be “captured on flight”.