Mosebenzi Zwane's 'advisers ran the show' while DG was kept in the dark, state capture inquiry hears

14 March 2019 - 12:05 By Amil Umraw
Judge Zondo hears evidence at the state capture inquiry. File photo.
Judge Zondo hears evidence at the state capture inquiry. File photo.
Image: Alon Skuy

Former mineral resources director-general Thibedi Ramontja has described how important decisions at the department were centralised between then minister Mosebenzi Zwane and his advisers.  

Ramontja told the state capture inquiry on Thursday that he was "kept in the dark" and that Zwane's advisers, who arrived with him when he was appointed in September 2015, took over the daily running of the department.

He became emotional while describing the working conditions, saying the "misty environment" had led to him experiencing problems with his health.

But what was of interest to the inquiry was how Zwane's advisers, according to Ramontja, were "basically running the show". This is similar to what happened at Treasury when Des van Rooyen was appointed as finance boss.

Former Treasury director-general Lungisa Fuzile previously testified that Van Rooyen arrived with Mohamed Bobat, a known Gupta associate, who was said to have acted as a law unto himself, handing out instructions to senior officials even before the minister was sworn in.

In the case of the department of mineral resources, Ramontja named three advisers who arrived with Zwane: Kuben Moodley, Malcolm Mabaso and Zarina Kellerman.

Moodley, a South African businessman and alleged "fixer", was mentioned in previous evidence as the man who allegedly facilitated various business deals for the Gupta family and Mabaso was in business with Gupta associate Salim Essa.  

"When ministers change, it is always not a very comfortable environment. Sometimes when the situation is very difficult even your health gets affected ... From day one, I could see that the rapport between myself and Zwane was not as I expected. There were advisers who came in, these advisers were basically running the show … At [Zwane's] swearing in, I went there to receive the minister and they were already there at the Union Buildings," Ramontja said.  

"A minister and a DG have really got to be close. I had to work through advisers. I got messages through advisers. I just felt marginalised in a way. Advisers were talking to my staff and you don’t know what is happening ... you are operating in a misty environment. Advisers are not supposed to run departments."  

He said he was called to Zwane's office on December 10 2015, but when he arrived there, he was led into Mabaso's office.

"He said to me the minister says you must resign. He wants the resignation within 20 minutes ... The minister was in his office, five metres from the office of Mabaso," Ramontja said.

Ramontja said he handed in his resignation on that day but remained at the department until January 31 2016.


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