A trip to India, a golden handshake and advice on Zuma: three quotes from Malusi Gigaba advisor #Zondo

Since the beginning of the Transnet testimony at the Zondo inquiry into state capture, executives who have been summoned to appear have all recalled events which occurred almost a decade ago. Siyabonga Mahlangu, who was the advisor to ex-public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, broke this trend. He could not recall key details despite being presented with evidence, sometime in the form of emails. Mahlangu stands accused of assisting the Transnet board in bringing back its delinquent CEO Siyabonga Gama in 2011. Mahlangu advised Gigaba of how to handle the settlement Gama was awarded and how to legalise his reinstatement. He has denied being actively involved in Transnet and refused to speak about briefing the Guptas on dealings at Transnet during a trip sponsored by them – Bernice Maune. 

By Bernice Maune 

1. Mahlangu backtracks on giving Gigaba advice on how to brief Zuma

It appears the former minister of public enterprise’s aide, also had access to ‘number one.’ In an email sent on  January 18 2011, Mahlangu tells his boss that he will have a look at the details of the settlement between Siyabonga Gama and Transnet. Gama was fired in 2009 for misconduct and puzzlingly brought back again in the same position of CEO. Transnet worked on negotiating a golden handshake of R17m which included lawyers fees and back pay with benefits. It’s understood former president Jacob Zuma specifically wanted Gama at Transnet to facilitate deals between his associates. At the Zondo commission, Mahlangu said he wanted Gigaba to make Zuma aware of Gama’s return to the company.

Mahlangu told Gigaba: “I understand Transnet may be nearing settlement. I will obtain the details of the settlement and brief you accordingly. I suggest you socialise the president and his key aides on the proposed settlement.”

2. We’re not here to chat about the Guptas, Sir

When evidence leader Anton Myburgh questioned Mahlangu about his trip to India at the behest of the Guptas, he wouldn’t budge on answering. I’m not here to answer questions about the Guptas, said the former advisor. The trip referred to saw Mahlangu spend eight days in India, telling Gigaba it would be of great political value. But, upon his return, Mahlangu sent another email discussing the pros and cons of Gama returning to Transnet.

3. Zuma’s name features again amidst rumours of pressure

During his own testimony at the Zondo commission, Transnet’s former head of group legal, Siyabulela Mapoma relayed how he was pressured to fast track ex-CEO Gama’s settlement. The relentless push came from Mahlangu, who was allegedly key in ensuring Gama walked away with a tidy multi-million package. Mahlangu apparently called Mapoma and told him Zuma wanted Gama back, ASAP. But Mahlangu denied this and fell short of saying Mapoma was lying, stating he had never put pressure on the lawyer.

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From emails exchanged between former Transnet chairperson Mafika Mkhwanazi and Mahlangu, there appears to have been discussions about how to reinstate Gama. Mahlangu gave Mhkwanazi advice which would have helped to make Gama’s return, a smooth one. However, Mahlangu denies this saying he had no specific interest in state-owned enterprises.

“At no point did the minister advise me that the president wished to have Mr Gama reinstated expeditiously or that the dispute with him be resolved expeditiously,” said Mahlangu.

Watch Siyabonga Mahlangu’s full testimony below.

For more on Gigaba:

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