Des van Rooyen can't differentiate between his staff, state capture inquiry told

22 November 2018 - 18:52
Des van Rooyen
Image: RUVAN BOSHOFF Des van Rooyen

When Des van Rooyen was appointed as finance minister he could not tell the difference between the man he was appointing to be his advisor and the one who was to be his chief of staff.

This was revealed by former national treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile as he detailed some of the very unusual events that took place just before and after Van Rooyen was appointed as finance minister by former president Jacob Zuma.

Fuzile told the commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday that he had met Van Rooyen and the two gentlemen whom he had appointed as chief of staff and advisor at the Treasury offices after Van Rooyen was sworn in as finance minister in December 2015.

“At one stage, he pointed at Mohamed Bobat as chief of staff and Bobat replied ‘no I’m the advisor, chief of staff is this one’,” he said.

Fuzile could not explain how this took place but said “it happened”.

“I suspect the title chief of staff sometimes sounds like the chief of staff in the White House or something… Mr Van Rooyen remembered that there were these two roles and the one that sounded senior was chief of staff. I mean it sincerely.”

The man who was supposed to be introduced by Van Rooyen as the chief of staff was Ian Whitley.

Chairperson of the commission deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo brought it to Fuzile’s attention how impractical it was for a person to confuse people right in front of him.

“How does one make that mistake?” the chairperson asked.

Fuzile replied: “The way things were unfolding in front of my eyes, it did not look like they had known each other for too long. It also did not look to me that most of what Mr Van Rooyen was saying was original. If I know people very well and I know two roles that I want to assign them, I don’t need to see their faces to know that person A is going to be this and person B will be this.”

Fuzile said a lot did not make sense at the time. 

“You don’t expect that while we are sitting here, someone can just walk in naked. It is not how we have been socialised. A lot of what we talk about here, we sound like we have lost our senses because some of the things just don’t make sense.”

He testified that Bobat had introduced himself to Van Rooyen as an advisor at the Union Buildings, just before he was sworn in as minister.

However, Fuzile added there was no contract, as required, that he signed appointing Bobat to the position of advisor.