PARLIAMENT, March 13 – Embattled Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba on Tuesday distanced himself from business dealings between the Gupta family and state-owned enterprises during the four years he held down the public enterprises portfolio.
Gigaba told the parliamentary inquiry into Eskom that contracts the power utility entered into with Tegeta, Trillian and Regiments did not happen on his watch, therefore “I cannot comment on them”.
He said he had been a big supporter of former Eskom CEO Brian Dames and had dissuaded him when Dames first tendered his resignation, pleading that his expertise and leadership was needed at a time when the company was embarking on major infrastructure projects.
But Gigaba conceded that he took no action after it emerged that his special advisor Siyabonga Mahlangu had introduced a dismayed Dames to one of the Gupta brothers, who suggested the family should be favourably considered for coal contracts.
Dames, in testimony before the inquiry in October, said he was not certain which of the brothers it had been, but remembered being told “we have decided we can work with you”.
Gigaba said Mahlangu did not act on his instructions and he did not see the need to rebuke him.
He said he did not believe it was fair for Dames to be cornered on what was essentially a decision about coal policy because that belonged with the shareholder and the Eskom board. But, at any rate, he said, the matter went no further because Dames ensured that it did not.
Gigaba, in a submission he read to the inquiry, said he had a good working relationship with Dames, and if he had any concern, “he should have called me”.
The minister put himself at a remove from procurement decisions at parastatals, stressing that in all the portfolios he has held, he operated on the understanding that it would be improper to involve himself with tender processes in any way.
“I also don’t know who are the members of the bid evaluation committee, bid adjudications committees…. I provide policy direction to the department…. once I get involved I then confuse the roles of the accounting and the executives offices.”
Asked by evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara on how he viewed the cost of state capture to the South African economy, Gigaba said it was a proven fact that allegations of corruption and misspending had a direct, swift impact on the economy.
He said he believed his role in stopping a highly controversial joint venture between arms manufacturer Denel and a Gupta linked company, VR Laser Asia, contributed to an upswing in the economy in the first quarter of the year.
“There was a positive sentiment that resulted in the first quarter of the year, the rand strengthening right up to it reaching that psychological mark of R12 to the dollar.”
Gigaba was a surprise inclusion in the new Cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa, who moved him from the finance ministry to his previous post of home affairs. He served as public enterprises minister between 2010 and 2014.
He has been fending off allegations that during his first stint as home affairs minister he gave the Indian-born Gupta family preferential treatment when they applied for naturalisation.