Molefe Seeletsa
Digital Journalist
2 minute read
23 Mar 2021
5:40 pm

‘Project Phoenix’ was proposed to Zuma to capture SOEs, Zondo hears

Molefe Seeletsa

The state capture commission heard that Bain made the proposal for Project Phoenix directly to Zuma in order to exclude government ministers.

Former president Jacob Zuma at the State Capture Commission in Braamfontein on 19 November 2020. Picture: Neil McCartney

The Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo heard on Tuesday how a special project – dubbed Project Phoenix –  was conceptualised to restructure and reshape South Africa’s entire economy through state-owned enterprise (SOEs).

Former partner at global management consulting firm Bain & Company, Athol Williams, told the commission Project Phoenix plans had been discussed with former president Jacob Zuma and had focused on restructuring several SOEs including Telkom, Eskom and the South African Revenue Service (Sars).

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“So chair for me again a concerning paragraph. It seems to me that Bain had become president Zuma’s consultants of choice because Bain seemed to have this assurance that they are key to whatever the president’s vision for the country is and his legacy.

“Just to touch on some of the specifics. Project Phoenix at the core of it was Telkom so I mentioned earlier that Bain was involved in what was happening at Telkom.

“I doubt the President was testing Bain’s technical skills, but we were tested and we got the check mark at Telkom and now we were gonna target these other companies and enlist them including Sars,” he said.

Williams said Bain had an interest in securing tender contracts from the SOEs.

“Expectations were that Bain could earn ten million dollars a year from the Post Office or three millions a year at Sars. It’s clear that was a plan to target these particular entities,” he added.

Earlier during the proceedings, Williams spoke about the unusual relationship between Bain and Zuma, which was facilitated by events company Ambrobrite, owned by Muvhango executive producer Duma Ndlovu and Mandla KaNozulu.

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The commission also heard that more than 12 meetings were conducted behind closed doors between Bain and Zuma.

He further said that Bain had made the proposal for Project Phoenix directly to Zuma in order to exclude government ministers.

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