Zondo commission: Ex treasury DG back to spill the beans

Former treasury director general Lungisa Fuzile will make his second appearance before the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Monday.

Last November, Fuzile — who is now the chief executive of Standard Bank — recounted the days following Nhlanhla Nene’s axing as finance minister in December 2015. ANC backbencher Des van Rooyen replaced Nene in a four-day stint that saw the rand take a nosedive.

His evidence this week is expected to form part of a series of testimonies relating to treasury. Thereafter, the commission — chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo — is set to hear evidence relating to the alleged capture of embattled power utility Eskom.

Fuzile told the commission last year that he received a “bewildering” phone call from the ANC’s head of economic transformation Enoch Godongwana shortly after Nene’s dismissal became public knowledge.

According to Fuzile, Godongwana said: “You are now going to get a Gupta minister who will arrive with his advisers.” Godongwana allegedly told Fuzile to “watch it” because the new minister would not even know his advisers.

READ MORE: Ex-treasury DG was warned of ‘Gupta minister’

Fuzile told the commission that “in a matter of hours” he “started to connect the dots”.“It hit me like a big rock between the eyes,” he added.Fuzile detailed a conversation he had two days later with then deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas, who recounted details of his conversation with Gupta patriarch, Ajay.

Last August, Jonas told the commission about how he attended a clandestine meeting at the Gupta family’s home in Saxonwold in October 2015. At the meeting, he was allegedly offered the position of finance minister and a R600-million bribe in exchange for his co-operation at treasury.

According to Fuzile, Jonas told him that one of the conditions of his elevation to finance minister would be that his first task would be the removal of certain treasury officials, who would be replaced by new advisors. Fuzile, Ismail Momoniat, Kenneth Brown and Andrew Donaldson were all named as having to be replaced.

Jonas would be given new advisers, he allegedly told Fuzile.

When Van Rooyen was appointed finance minister he brought two advisers with him. The advisers — Ian Whitley and Mohamed Bobat — were allegedly handpicked by the Guptas.

READ MORE: Van Rooyen tried to force ex-treasury DG’s hand in adviser appointments

“The reason these terrible things happened is because many good people kept quiet. I do not buy the excuse that is convenient that people make that they did not notice. Of course you may not notice from the first event, but the thing is that too many events were happening here,” Fuzile told the commission.

Van Rooyen was ultimately replaced by Pravin Gordhan who told the commission last November about former president Jacob Zuma’s alleged attempts to undermine treasury.

Now, as the minister of public enterprises, Gordhan is at the centre of another crisis allegedly brought on by the influence of the Gupta family at Eskom.

The damage done at the power utility by alleged Gupta allies — including former Eskom chief executive Molefe, former executives Matshela Koko and Anoj Singh, former board chair Zethembe Khoza, and former public enterprises ministers Malusi Gigaba and Lynne Brown — lost the state company billions, bringing it to the brink of destruction.

Speaking to members of Parliament during the debate of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address, Gordhan noted the links between state capture and the recent unexpected power cuts.

“As a result of the damage caused by state capture. Eskom’s pride and capacity has been undermined. We are bold enough, brave enough, and frank enough to talk about on one hand,” Gordhan said.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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