Former Gigaba adviser denies pushing for Gama’s reinstatement at Transnet

FILE PHOTO: Denel company logo is seen at the entrance of their business divisions in Pretoria, South Africa, December 4, 2018 Picture taken December 4, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Siyabonga Mahlangu, former special adviser to then public enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba, had a lot of explaining to do about two e-mails he presented to the state capture inquiry on Friday.

He told the inquiry he “could not recall” sending the e-mails in question.

The e-mails, written to Gigaba in January and February 2011, showed Mahlangu might have been more involved in the process leading to the reinstatement of Siyabonga Gama as Transnet Freight Rail CEO than he initially admitted.

In his first affidavit before the inquiry, Mahlangu said at the time Gama was about to be reinstated to Transnet in February 2011, he was still familiarising himself with his work environment as he was appointed as special adviser from December 1 2010.

In the affidavit, Mahlangu said he had not met Gama nor dealt with issues relating to his dismissal.

“I was not involved directly or indirectly in the settlement discussions leading to the reinstatement of Mr Gama.

“The only insight I have on the discussions was when I was informed by Mr (Mafika) Mkhwanazi,  then chairperson of Transnet and acting CEO, that the company intended to reinstate Mr Gama,” Mahlangu said in the affidavit he read to the inquiry on Friday.

However, in a supplementary affidavit, he attached two e-mails he had written to Gigaba on Gama’s pending reinstatement.

In the supplementary affidavit he read to the inquiry, Mahlangu said he did not remember sending the e-mails.

In the first e-mail dated January 18 2011, 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.”

In the second e-mail sent on February 4 2011, Mahlangu gave Gigaba options on how to deal with Gama’s reinstatement.

Evidence leader for the inquiry, Anton Myburgh, said when new e-mails emerged, one’s memory could be triggered to remember what happened.

Another situation would be the one Mahlangu adopted; that even after seeing the e-mails, he could not recall the events noted in the e-mails.

Myburgh said Mahlangu’s initial statement — that at the time of Gama’s reinstatement, Mahlangu was still familiarising himself with his new work environment — was incorrect when contrasted with the two e-mails.

Mahlangu agreed.

“In fact what the e-mails show, albeit you have no independent recollection, is that you have had a series of discussions with Mr Mkhwanazi, you had reported on those discussions to your boss and in fact you had given your boss advice,” Myburgh asked.

Mahlangu agreed.

He denied allegations made against him by Siyabulela Mapoma, a former general manager of group legal services at Transnet, who alleged Mahlangu pressured him to expedite Gama’s reinstatement.

“Given that at the time I was still new at the job, I could not have pressured Mapoma. I had no reason or motive to pressure Mapoma or anyone. In any event, my role or function did not involve pressuring officials.”

Mahlangu denied he had ever used former president Jacob Zuma’s name to expedite the reinstatement of Gama, as alleged by Mapoma.

He said Zuma had never instructed nor requested him to put pressure on anyone to finalise the reinstatement of Gama.

Though Mahlangu did not remember some of the details surrounding the reinstatement of Gama, Mahlangu remembered he was cautious around issues relating to Gama.

“I remember it was a politically charged legally complex matter,” Mahlangu said.

The hearing continues.