Malusi Gigaba fights back after his week from hell

'State capture' minister says he will not step down from his post; says there is an orchestrated campaign to end his career

04 November 2018 - 00:07 By SIBONGAKONKE SHOBA and QAANITAH HUNTER


Embattled home affairs minister Malusi Gigaba is mounting a fightback, daring his detractors to charge him with perjury for lying under oath, and calling SA's richest family, the Oppenheimers, dishonest liars.
A defiant Gigaba, widely regarded as a main mover in the state-capture saga, brushed away the scandal that enveloped him this week and which could yet cost him his job as minister - and ultimately the presidency, to which he aspires.
His week began with a shock sex video, and his woes worsened when public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane ruled he had lied under oath and violated the constitution in the matter of the Oppenheimer family's private international airport terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.
In parliament this week, Nicky Oppenheimer told the home affairs committee that Gigaba had lied about the terminal. And now the Treasury is asking him searching questions about his role in a Transnet locomotive deal engineered to help the Gupta family.
In an interview with the Sunday Times this week, Gigaba complained that his version of events had been ignored.
He said that if he was not given a platform to clear his name in parliament's ethics committee, he would welcome a perjury charge so that he could state his case.
"If the argument is that I have lied under oath, and I have not been given an opportunity to clear my name, then that's what they should go ahead and do," he said.
He claimed there was a well-orchestrated campaign to tarnish his name, with the intention to destroy his political career.
"The intention is to destroy me and force me out. I'm being demonised and proclaimed as public enemy No 1," he said.
He said neither the courts nor Mkhwebane had invited him to give oral arguments.
Gigaba is fighting for his political life as President Cyril Ramaphosa faces pressure to fire him after the courts and Mkhwebane found he lied under oath when he told the court he did not grant the Oppenheimers permission to convert Fireblade to an international VVIP terminal. Mkhwebane recommended that Ramaphosa take action against Gigaba for lying under oath.
Gigaba and Mkhwebane have had a frosty relationship since he, as finance minister, challenged her call for a parliamentary review of the Reserve Bank's mandate.
When the North Gauteng High Court ruled in December last year that Gigaba deliberately lied to the court in the Fireblade matter, Ramaphosa said the matter was of great concern and needed serious attention.
But Ramaphosa has seemingly ignored the court ruling, and said on Thursday that he had yet to apply his mind to Mkhwebane's report.
Insiders close to Ramaphosa said on Friday that the president was expecting Gigaba "to do the honourable thing and resign".
Some of the ANC's top six officials have expressed a similar sentiment.
Insiders said Ramaphosa had not spoken to Gigaba by Friday night.
Gigaba is said to be aggrieved at the ANC's silence since his sex video was leaked. He is said to have warned the ANC national executive committee in September about the existence of the footage and its pending leak.
Gigaba's woes began in October last year when North Gauteng High Court judge Sulet Potterill concluded that Gigaba had lied when he said he had not given the Oppenheimer family's Fireblade Aviation approval to operate the private terminal.
Fireblade Aviation then sued Gigaba for backtracking on his undertaking to make officials available to Fireblade to staff the terminal's customs and immigration facility.
The court ruled that Gigaba's arguments were "disingenuous, spurious and fundamentally flawed, laboured and meritless, bad in law, astonishing, palpably untrue, untenable and not sustained by objective evidence, uncreditworthy and nonsensical".
In the later ruling in December, when Fireblade sought leave to execute the earlier order pending Gigaba's appeal, Potterill noted that Gigaba was "not an ordinary litigant" and had a duty "to place a full and fair factual account of the facts before the court".
In March this year, when Gigaba appealed the case, judge Neil Tuchten concurred with Potterill and found that Gigaba's assertion that he had never given approval to the Oppenheimers was false.
The court noted that Gigaba "had decided to grant the permission, and for reasons which he does not disclose, then bethought himself of his decision and wished to escape its consequences".
When the case was taken to the Supreme Court of Appeal, judge Malcolm Wallis denied Gigaba leave to appeal against the judgment and said there was no reasonable prospect of success.
Gigaba's fight was not over. He took his case to the Constitutional Court, which this week dismissed his application to hear his appeal against the lower court ruling.
But Gigaba told the Sunday Times that the courts relied on handwritten notes taken by the Oppenheimers.
He said Mkhwebane had already made up her mind, and had no intention to find the truth. He said he never, during the meeting with the Oppenheimers, gave his approval.
"To say to people 'I think this is a good idea' does not in itself constitute an approval. I said to them that a VVIP terminal, in my opinion, is not a bad idea given that there may be instances when Waterkloof, Lanseria are busy, or OR Tambo is not convenient for landing of heads of state and other people arriving in private jets. But that in itself does not constitute an approval. It constitutes an appreciation of an idea," Gigaba said.
He claimed the Oppenheimers lobbied the ANC, and that they had claimed to have former president Jacob Zuma's approval.
"These guys came to me coming from a meeting with the president. They said to me they had met the former president and he supported and approved their idea of a VVIP terminal. Which prompted me to go to him and ask him if he had approved it. He said to me he had not. All he said to them was that there is a relevant minister to whom they must go and have a discussion."
He said the only approval the Oppenheimers obtained was from Ignatius Jacobs, a former general manager in the ANC secretary-general's office at Luthuli House.
"Unbeknown to me, while I was engaging with these guys, they had gone behind my back, gone to the ANC to solicit support. And they obtained from the ANC a letter of approval which had no standing in law because the ANC is not an institution of government.
"The letter that they obtained from the ANC was a fraudulent approval and they obtained it dishonestly. Nowhere in their [court] documents do they make an admission that they had obtained such a letter from the ANC. It was dishonest on their part to bring [in] the ANC and it was dishonest for Ignatius Jacobs to write that letter knowing that this was a matter that was beyond his [responsibility]."
Yesterday, a spokesperson for Fireblade dismissed Gigaba's claims.
"Fireblade is firmly of the view that these points have been raised - or that the minister had ample opportunity to raise them - during various court proceedings. As has been extensively reported, this legal process has now concluded in Fireblade's favour, following careful consideration by the relevant courts on the minister's claims," a Fireblade spokesperson said.

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