Thuli Madonsela 'helped to prep Jacob Zuma for top job'
SACP set to lift lid on process that 'set stage for state capture'
Former public protector Thuli Madonsela was part of an elite team of advisers who drew up a blueprint for former president Jacob Zuma's government before 2009.
The surprising claim of Madonsela's inclusion in what is being called a "kitchen cabinet" will be made at the Zondo commission of inquiry, which will also hear that it laid the ground for state capture.
Though there is no suggestion that the advisory team is linked in any way to corrupt activities, Zuma's use of it is seen as proof that he was quite prepared to outsource the ANC's mandate.
SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila will be among the witnesses who will testify that the elite group, called the "engine room", gave extensive advice to Zuma about the structure and policy direction of his government ahead of the 2009 elections.
Submissions to Zondo by among others, Mapaila and former Ipid boss Robert McBride will, however, argue that apart from the engine room being involved in the conceptualisation of the government, Zuma appointed people from the group to key positions in the state.
The claims are especially surprising given that Madonsela is widely regarded as having been instrumental in Zuma's fall from grace, with her reports on Nkandla and state capture.
The engine room included filmmaker Duma Ndlovu, Madonsela, Independent Electoral Commission chair Glen Mashinini and former national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.
Former cabinet minister Nkosinathi Nhleko was central to the group and former South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Tom Moyane attended meetings.
Mapaila was part of a transitional team established by the ANC, SACP and Cosatu to restructure the government and determine its programme based on the outcome of the ANC's 2007 Polokwane conference.
"By the time our team was established, president Zuma had established this team in secret without informing alliance leadership and they had already done some work," Mapaila told the Sunday Times.
He said they were shocked when Zuma announced his cabinet as some of the proposals of the engine room were implemented against the advice of the alliance team.
This included that the National Planning Commission and department of performance monitoring & evaluation be two separate ministries. The alliance team had recommended they be one ministry.
Members of the engine room say the group was nothing more than a think-tank.
Nhleko, a provincial prisons boss, was appointed minister of police, and Moyane became Sars commissioner. Mashinini was first an adviser to Zuma and then chair of the Independent Electoral Commission.
Phiyega was appointed chair of the presidential state-owned enterprises review committee before becoming police commissioner. Madonsela became public protector and another team member, Vincent Magwenya, was appointed presidential spokesperson. Bonisile Makhene became legal adviser to the president and her husband, Yekani Monde Gadini, was a State Security Agency agent posted to Sars.
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"When we go to the commission we will illustrate our point of view that this is how capture happened even before [Zuma] became president. Policymaking shifted from the ANC to an unknown secret system," said Mapaila.
The alliance transitional team included the top six ANC officials and the general secretaries of the SACP and Cosatu, Blade Nzimande and Zwelinzima Vavi. The secretariat was headed by the late Collins Chabane, who later joined Zuma's cabinet, and included Mapaila, Ayanda Dlodlo, Neil Coleman and Clifford Motsepe.
Mapaila said the transitional team raised concerns about the mandate of the "engine room" with Zuma. He said that after he met with Ndlovu, he became even more worried about the group, and he and Chabane were unsure about how to interact with them. He said the group was invited to a meeting at Luthuli House.
"There was too much tension as we decided we were not going to accept being a token committee while this group actually determined the trademarks of the Zuma presidency," said Mapaila.
He also attended a workshop the group held at a lodge outside Johannesburg where they prepared a final presentation to Zuma.
"They had done good work, some of which found itself in the policy space of government. There was a presentation on the public health system, for example, that is now in [health minister Aaron] Motsoaledi's programme," said Mapaila.
"There was also a presentation on the border management agency and how it can be used to increase revenue collection … The problem was that this was a parallel advisory team to the team established by the ANC and the alliance. We did not know how they were constituted and who mandated them."
Ndlovu refused to comment when contacted by phone yesterday.
In response to written questions, he said: "I have referred your e-mail to my lawyers, since you mentioned that my name has come up in submissions to the Zondo commission. I am not aware of this and this is the first time I hear (interesting that I would hear such important information from a journalist first) that I have been mentioned in the commission on state capture.
"I am sure if I am asked to come and respond and make a submission to the commission I will need legal representation, hence I am referring your queries to my lawyers, who will then respond to you."
No further response was received.
Madonsela did not respond to questions yesterday but said earlier her expertise in the field of ethics and governance is regularly drawn on by think-tanks. She said there were never any discussions about positions in the Zuma government when her input was sought.
The IEC did not respond to questions sent to Mashinini.