Zuma's grip on SOEs laid bare in inquiry

Former president Jacob Zuma.
Former president Jacob Zuma.

Former public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan finally gave her much anticipated evidence at the commission of inquiry into state capture yesterday.

As expected, she did not hold back - revealing the extent of what she called shocking interference by former president Jacob Zuma and the ruling ANC in the running of parastatals, especially Transnet.

She was particularly damning in her evidence regarding Zuma's insistence that Siyabonga Gama be appointed Transnet CEO despite the board and Hogan, in her capacity as minister, preferring Sipho Maseko, who is now CEO of Telkom.

Hogan's testimony was also an indictment on the ANC's cadre deployment policy, especially as it relates to the appointment of senior executives at parastatals.

For years, many in the ANC defended their insistence that Gama become CEO even though there were serious questions about his suitability on the grounds that he was a qualified black executive running against a white candidate.

Well from Hogan's testimony, it appears that Gama was in fact in the running against Maseko - a highly regarded black executive who had run petrol giant BP with success.

That Zuma and the ANC insisted on Gama had little to do with transformation but everything with appointing someone they believed they could control.

This approach has not only prevented many deserving black executives from holding key positions in the public sector, but has robbed many a parastatal and government department of real black talent at executive level.

And we are poorer for it.

We know that the ongoing commission of inquiry is focussed mainly on how state institutions were captured by unscrupulous private individuals for their personal enrichment. But we hope that in his final report, the commission's head deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo would pay some attention to the question of how the ANC's cadre deployment policy hindered the recruitment of highly needed black skills to the public sector.

As part of rebuilding our country following almost a decade of state capture, we need to find ways of making the public service attractive again to capable black executives like Maseko.

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