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Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday faced questions at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry on key Gupta lieutenants that were appointed into state-owned entities (SOE) Transnet and Eskom and how this went unnoticed by himself and others.
Evidence heard previously at the inquiry revealed over R57 billion in government contracts were awarded to Gupta-linked entities by SOEs over several years.
Half of those deals were issued by Transnet. As these contracts were issued, key Gupta-linked individuals were placed at Transnet. One contract that has been highlighted includes the irregular acquisition of 1064 locomotives at a costs of R54bn.
Evidence leader, advocate Anton Myburgh put it to Ramaphosa that as many of these contracts were issued, key people such as former public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, who admitted to being close to the Guptas, had been in charge of Transnet.
Former CEO of Transnet Brian Molefe was at the helm and had also admitted to being close to the Guptas.
Ramaphosa said he was unaware of the relationship Gigaba had with the Gupta family and whether others did.
Myburgh said: “How is this possible that this was not identified? This went on for a number of years. This happened in the light of day, it happened when the key minister Gigaba accepted he was a friend of the Guptas, GCE (group chief executive) accepts he was a friend of the Guptas?”
Ramaphosa responded that these incidents might have gone unnoticed by some as the depth of the web of capture continued to grow.
“Chairperson it is conceivable (for corruption to go unnoticed) in a state capture type of environment where the capture of the State goes through a number of structures. They made sure that people who are going to implement this were appointed,” Ramaphosa said.
The president was also questioned on the abuse of empowerment initiatives at SOEs. Empowerment deals such as the supply development partners and the business service development agreement were abused by Gupta-linked companies to obtain kick-backs.
In response, the Ramaphosa said he was largely concerned about the damage outsourcing had caused to career service workers. He said it was often abused and used to milk money from the State.
He said that outsourcing weakens the State.
“The State has been so weakened over the years so we need to use well-trained people in the public service. During the period of state capture people were sidelined and left the employee of the State because the tasks they were doing were outsourced.
“This clear outsourcing is a demonstration of capture. When we outsource we find ourselves paying more than we would have paid if we had not outsourced,” he said.