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By News24 Wire

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Van Rooyen met Gupta-linked Mohamed Bobat once before offering advisor job

At the time, Van Rooyen had never seen Bobat's CV and he only knew of his qualifications through his engagements with him.

The commission of inquiry into state capture has heard how Des van Rooyen only met Mohamed Bobat once prior to becoming finance minister, but later appointed the man as his special adviser.

When Van Rooyen was sworn in as finance minister in December 2015, he appointed Bobat as his special adviser and Ian Whitley as his chief of staff.

Prior to the appointment, he had met Bobat once, in 2009, at a restaurant.

“I was doing outreach in Bojanala [district in the North West], I think I needed something from a restaurant of a hotel in the area. I went there to grab something and that is where I met Mohamed.

“I got into the restaurant and greeted everybody. He introduced himself to me on my way out and gave me his business card. I kept the business card and, when I had challenges with my studies, I started communicating with him when there [was] a need,” he explained to the commission on Tuesday.

When probed by the commission on why Bobat approached him, Van Rooyen explained that whenever “there is a leader in the area, people want to associate with that leader”.

The former finance minister further told the commission that he did not contact Bobat frequently, but that he initiated all the engagements.

Fast forward six years later, and Van Rooyen was to be sworn in as finance minister in December 2015.

“I tried to call Bobat and I struggled to get hold of him, the presidency wanted a list of people to come and attend my swearing in.

“On the 8 th [of December] after the meeting with the president, I thought who can I bring to support? I already decided that I was going to trace this man because I really need him to come and join me,” Van Rooyen explained.

Earlier, the commission heard how Bobat was presented at the swearing-in ceremony, held at the Union Buildings.

“I indicated to him that I have an interest in him being a part of my team as an adviser – as much as I identified him, we need to follow a process.

“I said there is a due process that must be followed to confirm that you are suitable and the DG [Lungisa Fuzile] is going to help me, so I will introduce you and that is what happened, he accepted my offer,” Van Rooyen further explained.

At the time, Van Rooyen had never seen Bobat’s CV and he only knew of his qualifications through his engagements with him, the commission heard.

“Why did you confine yourself to this person, whom you only met once six years ago or so in a restaurant, and you only spoke to once or twice on the phone?” the commission’s chair Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo asked.

Van Rooyen responded: “Chair, I had no time, I had to hit the ground running, I had to prioritise some positions in my office in terms of the immediate tasks.”

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