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Jacob Zuma's overseas phone call was 'possibly about ousting GCIS boss'

Former president Jacob Zuma's private made a meeting request with the late Collins Chabane, who was the minister in the presidency.
Former president Jacob Zuma's private made a meeting request with the late Collins Chabane, who was the minister in the presidency.
Image: Thulani Mbele

Contrary to his statement before the state capture inquiry, former president Jacob Zuma may have called then minister in the presidency Collins Chabane to discuss government communication and information system (GCIS) boss Themba Maseko's removal.

Abednigo Hlungwani, former chief of staff in Chabane's department, told the commission on Monday that he received a call from Zuma's private secretary in January 2011.

“I received a call from one of the private secretaries of the president. She indicated they were abroad and wanted to check with me if Chabane was with me at the time. We were at the Union Buildings on the day,” he said. 

“I did respond to say yes, he is in the office. She indicated to go inform the minister that he must expect a call from the president. Moments later, a call came through from the private secretary on my cellphone. I handed over the phone to him [Chabane]. At that point, it was still the private secretary on the line ... I walked back to my desk.”

Chabane returned Hlungwani's phone and the day continued as per normal. 

“At the point when he [Chabane] left the office on the day, he did indicate to me that he would like to talk to Themba Maseko, after which I might have called the head of Maseko’s office at the time to indicate that the minister would like to talk to Maseko,” Hlungwani said.  

“On one occasion he [Chabane] did say that we would have to move [Maseko]. I didn’t ask why, I just said okay.” This is said to have happened less than a week after Zuma's call. 

Maseko, one of the first people to testify before the commission last year, alleged that Zuma had instructed him to help the Gupta family in 2010. After numerous attempts by the well-connected family to arrange to meet him, Maseko said he yielded to their request.

On the day he was due to meet them, Zuma is said to have instructed him, in a phone call, to help the family.

Maseko said at the meeting, one of the Gupta brothers ordered him to direct GCIS's entire R600m media advertising budget to the family's media interests. He said when he refused, he was sacked by Chabane and told the commission that the then minister said he was acting on Zuma's instruction.

When Zuma appeared at the commission earlier this year, he said Chabane was name-dropping when he told Maseko that he was acting on the former president's instructions.