Eskom bosses on Friday said the power utility was considering challenging former public protector Thuli Madonsela damning findings against its board and CEO Brian Molefe and denied that there was any wrongdoing in its business dealings with Gupta-owned exploration company Tegeta.
Board chairperson Ben Ngubane said there was a “huge effort to demonise some people” in the country.
“Do not draw conclusions as stated in the public protector report. This thing of setting people’s minds against others is going to kill this country. There is a huge effort to demonise some people … promote other people when, in fact, the underlying facts are not even known and understood.”
Ngubane disputed Madonsela’s suggestion that the Eskom board was improperly appointed, as it consisted of members who had direct or indirect relations with the Guptas, their business associates and President Zuma’s son Duduzile Zuma.
Duduzile partnered in business with the controversial Gupta family.
On the finding that he had failed to declare his directorship of Gade Oil and Gas, in which the Guptas’s business associate Salim Essa was director, Ngubane said he did own the oil company but that it was dissolved within three months, indicating no conflict of interest on his part or that of the board.
“Do you know who Gade Oil and Gas is? You assume it is a Gupta company? It is owned by me. When I was ambassador to Japan, one of the African ambassadors told me there was an oil venture coming up in the Central African Republic, and I said I wanted to be part of that venture. Do you know the story about the CAR revolution and our soldiers killed there? We cancelled the venture after that incident. Essa resigned as well after that,” he told reporters.
The appointment of board members consisted of a rigorous process of nominations and appointment by Cabinet. Madonsela’s report on Eskom was part of a “big agenda” to discredit the South African government, he said.
“I do not understand where this story of the board being appointed inappropriately comes from. It is malicious and to discredit everything that some in our country do not like.”
Madonsela said the appointment of other Eskom’s non-executive directors such as Mark Pamensky, Devapushpum Naidoo, Nazia Carrim, Romeo Khumalo and Marriam Cassim constituted a conflict of interest.
Khumalo, Carrim and Cassim have since resigned from the Eskom board. The board was appointed by Cabinet in 2015 after nomination by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
Madonsela said Brown may have violated the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) by approving, at a hastily convened after-hours meeting, an advance payment of more than R659 million to Tegeta when it emerged that it needed funds to buy out Optimum Coal.