Eskom’s suspended head of legal Suzanne Daniels on Wednesday dropped a succession of bombshells at the parliamentary inquiry into the utility as she described the commanding power of the Gupta family and implicated Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and top officials in corrupt dealings with their business empire.
Daniels told stunned Members of Parliament (MPs) that Ajay Gupta wanted to manipulate the court dates of the case into former CEO Brian Molefe’s pension payout so the matter would only be heard after the African National Congress’ (ANC’s) elective conference in December this year.
She said Salim Essa, a prominent business associate of the Gupta brothers, called her to Melrose Arch on July 29, this year, and took her to a townhouse where she was confronted by Gupta, President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Ben Martins.
“As we walked into the lounge area, there were four people which I were introduced to [as] Mr Ajay Gupta, Mr Duduzane Zuma and Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins and a Chinese lady whose name I cannot remember because at this point I was actually speechless,” she said.
She said Gupta, in bare feet and trackpants, asked when the legal challenge to Molefe’s R30-million pension payout from Eskom would be heard.
She replied that no date had been set and, since more parties were joining the court proceedings, this needed to be discussed with the deputy judge president’s (DJP’s) office.
“He said he will then have to talk to someone in the DJP’s office [to] make sure the hearing takes place after December 2017.”
Daniels said Gupta then said “something about Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma”, but she had difficulty understanding what he was saying because of his strong accent.
“There was some mumbling and then I left. It felt like I was in a movie. I was really praying to God that they don’t kill me because I thought I had walked into a trap.”
Daniels said she subsequently told her staff to “make damn sure” that the matter made it to court before December.
She said believed that, contrary to her statements to Parliament, Brown had been aware of the machinations to allow Molefe to retire at 50 with full pension benefits, though he was not eligible for a pension because he was appointed on a fixed term contract.
Brown wanted her to draft a report for Parliament’s ethics committee to the effect that there had been no knowledge of the arrangement, she said.
“I am convinced that she knew and tried to fob it off. I don’t see how she could not have known … everybody in her office is captured.”
She went on to add that Brown’s Personal Assistant Kim Davids had put pressure on her to ensure that Eskom reached an agreement with the Guptas’s Trillian that would effectively make it a subcontractor on its deal with consulting firm McKinsey.
“She said ‘M’am wants this’,” adding it was how Davids habitually referred to Brown and that she was taken aback at receiving an instruction of this nature from an assistant.
Daniels was recently suspended by Eskom, and said she believed this was inevitable after she was unable to prepare a report on Eskom’s dealings with Trillian that would satisfy Brown.
Daniels described the actions of suspended Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh, who tried to dissimulate payments of R1.6 billion to McKinsey and Trillian, as “brazen theft”.
“The people implicated and who I identify as thieves are Matshela Koko, Anoj Singh, Edwin Mabelane and Charles Kalima.”
Mabelane is Eskom’s head of procurement and Kalima its acting general manager.
Daniels said it was at Mabelane’s instruction that she convened the late night meeting at which Eskom decided to pay some R659 million in advance for coal from the Optimum mine. The meeting happened hours after banks refused to lend the Guptas’s Tegeta Exploration that sum, which it needed to make up the full purchase price of the mine.
After the sale, she learnt that Eskom had slashed the R2.2-billion fine it sought to impose on the previous owners of the mine, Glencore, for supplying sub standard coal to R1.2 billion. She asked why, and was outraged to hear officials passing the discrepancy off as a simple error.
“As ludicrous as it sounds the answer was there was an error in the spread sheet. At that point I was beyond furious.”
Daniels gave information to former public protector Thuli Madonsela in the course of her investigation, which revealed the lengths to which Eskom went to enable Tegeta’s acquisition of the Optimum mine.
She said she was shocked to learn that Madonsela had proof of 58 phone calls between Molefe and Ajay Gupta, and asked for his cellphone records so that Eskom could verify this.
Molefe never supplied the records, she said.
– African News Agency (ANA)