THE PERSONAL IS OFTEN CONFUSED WITH THE NATIONAL IN OUR SA WORLD OF POLITICS IN WHICH SOME CLAIM A MORAL HIGH GROUND
By: Clyde Ramalaine
The state capture judicial inquiry, it is anticipated, will this week engage the views or opinions of Barbara Hogan, the former minister of health and public enterprises who was fired. Hogan had very short stints as a cabinet member in both instances, eight months for health and eighteen months for public enterprises. Hogan is also known as the life partner of Ahmed Kathrada, the Robben Islander. She is for some considered a very complex character drenched in bitterness and may have sworn vengeance. A bitterness so often in SA discourse conflated as self-righteousness against evil.
Who then is Barbara Hogan? According to SAHO (South Africa History online), Hogan was born in Benoni and attended St Dominic’s high school followed by Wits University where she attained a degree in Development Studies; she joined the ANC 1977. She also served time in the Pretoria Central Prison where most white liberation struggle participants were sent. She was released in 1990 alongside other political prisoners.
While SA History online tells us, Hogan served as a member of ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) from 1990 to 1992. A better explanation of that leads that she was not an elected member of the NEC but an ex-officio member by virtue of her secretary role of the then PWV (Pretoria Witwatersrand Vereeniging) Region which was then chaired by Kgalema Motlanthe. We know that ANC provincial structures emerged at the ANC Bloemfontein conference in 1996.
In 1993 she assumed the position of head of Policy Development at the Development Bank of South Africa. After the first democratic elections, Hogan served in various capacities in the ANC-led government. She served as chairperson of the portfolio committee on finance between 1999 and 2004, and she also became chairperson of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) and the Standing Committee on the Auditor-General. Hogan also became a Member of Parliament for the ANC. She was appointed as Minister of Health on 26 September 2008 and served in the portfolio until 10 May 2009. After that, she was appointed as Minister of Public Enterprises in May 2009 and served in the portfolio until she resigned in November 2010.
She was appointed to cabinet for the first time as a replacement for Manto Tshabalala-Msimang by Kgalema Motlanthe, during his caretaker seven-month period of leading SA.
It is argued her advent to power politics was made possible by Motlanthe with whom she shared a close friendship. She was moved from the health portfolio by May 2010 when President Zuma chose Dr Aaron Motsoeledi, a trained medical practitioner, for the post. Already there Hogan did not appreciate this move on the part of Zuma and the swords may have crossed there.
Hogan was not totally dropped but she was moved to public enterprises. Public enterprises is the central ministry for the media-claimed crime of state capture, hence we should not be surprised that Hogan who was fired from this public enterprise’s portfolio may claim certain information, knowledge and possible evidence that may aid the work of the commission.
It is said that Hogan has the “knife in” for former Secretary General, now Chairperson, of the ANC Gwede Mantashe and Secretary General of the SACP Blade Nzimande whom she associates in the claim of Zuma support in better days between the SACP and Zuma. Hogan boasted to those she regarded her friends as to what transpired on the day of her firing. She was called in to meet both Zuma and Mantashe, they informed her of the decision and offered her an ambassadorial posting to Japan as a conciliatory prize. Hogan told those she wanted to know of the incident that she stormed from the desk shouting stuff your ambassadorial job… you know where. And before she slammed the door on her way out she told them “…f*ck both of you…”
The die then already was cast and what would now define the future: utter disdain, a simmering hatred saturated by feelings of insult and abuse at least seen from her vantage point. As the saying goes beware the scorn of a woman. Out of a powerful position which she lost because she at the time wanted her key adviser, the former Anglo-American executive Bobby Godsell, to assume the position that Siyabonga Gama ultimately got at Transnet. As Mantashe in his brief interview with City Press alluded, the choice for a black CEO at Transnet, where a competent candidate was available, was in the spirit of transformation and an automatic decision.
Hogan’s anger towards those she blames for robbing her to be a minister, a post she believes she is entitled to, appears to have silently grown into a volcano that will erupt at the state capture commission.
It is argued she would use the relationship shared with Kathrada as a means to continue dealing with her enemies. Kathrada’s letter to Zuma than cannot be exempted from the anger of Hogan. Ultimately Kathrada advanced in age would die and his funeral would become another talking ground for her campaign to teach Zuma, Mantashe and others like Nzimande, lessons.
In the case of Zuma, he was told he will not speak though he was head of state. Some messages confirmed that they really didn’t want him present at all. Zuma obliged and stayed away. Mantashe as SG of the ANC attended this clearly hostile and politically biased funeral, which I also attended. Chaired by the Kathrada Foundation chair Derek Hanekom this gathering was predictably hardly a celebration of the lifelong work of an activist.
I remember sitting there with one of my siblings and thinking what a miscarriage of a legacy when in political expediency Pravin Gordhan and Julius Malema became the unnecessary focus of the gathering. I recall how Valli Moosa passed me by to fetch Gordhan where he sat four rows behind to the right of us, and the pieces of conversation I heard as they passed us by. Moosa asked Gordhan, “so you out?” This was also the night that President Zuma had scheduled a meeting with cabinet and would dare to relieve Pravin Gordhan. Kathrada’s funeral became then a rallying point for those who declared their own war on the Luthuli House leadership.
I still maintain that despite what the Kathrada Foundation leadership may protest, the final wishes or statement did not come without its board members’ central influence, meaning Kgalema Motlanthe, Derek Hanekom, David Makhura, Hogan etc. I did raise my displeasure with the CEO of the Kathrada Foundation Neeshan Bolton in a WhatsApp message as to how one of SA’ s true stalwart’s final moments in legacy celebration was upstaged by a political campaign led by Derek Hanekom.
The state capture commission in a sense, therefore, becomes Hogan’s final moment to deal with those who fired her or as she may see it, stunted her in her career of being a cabinet minister. As was the case with Vytjie Mentor, Mcebisi Jonas, James Maseko, to be expected also from Pravin Gordhan and possibly also a Ben Martins, the subject is really adopting that of a frame of labour relations disputes.
Not that one can unilaterally and nakedly frame it as such, but these centre on people that have been fired. They will argue their firing at an individual level was unfair and a means to cover up corruption or intended to pave the way for looting. It appears she hopes to build on the testimony of former Member of Parliament Vytjie Mentor’s testimony, who shared in her evidence, that the governing party’s former secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy at the time, Jessie Duarte, proved indifferent to her claims that she was offered a ministerial position by the Guptas. Mentor informed the commission during her testimony that Mantashe simply walked away, saying he had another meeting to attend.
The interesting thing one is compelled to never ask is why the ‘victimised’ never tell us on the basis of what they were asked to serve in high office. They explain as to what their appointments really meant when they were first appointed. According to them, they would remonstrate they were appointed with good intentions, based on their respective track records and not any intention of malfeasance or ill-will.
What we know is that cabinet is made up of people that serve at the privilege of the president. No one is guaranteed a job and when one is reshuffled or ultimately fired one has no recourse. It remains my caution that the commission must sift carefully through personal fights that’s written all over many of those who have appeared before the commission and substantial evidence for a case for or against the prevalence of what is termed state capture.
Hogan thus gets her moment to drag names to the commission, having to answer questions that equally intimate placing these names at crime scenes of corruption and capture. While the commission may never find against these individuals, there is a thing called sentiment, and sentiment dictates that appearing before this commission as subpoenaed renders you in the minds of some guilty – guilt you may never quite be able to shake. In the final analysis, that may also be a fulcrum aim of those who drag you there as implicated.
With this, one is not remotely suggesting a determination of guilt or innocence on those asked to appear since they are implicated. What one is attempting to raise is the ease of comfort some may claim to conflate the personal with the organisational with the state.
We must wait to hear the full statement of Hogan in order to engage her claims, for we are told she intends bringing the proverbial house’s roof down with her claims.
- Ramalaine is a political commentator and writer