South Africa 14.11.2017 06:08 pm

Eskom, minister Brown reject allegations by witnesses at the parliamentary inquiry

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown appears before the public enterprises portfolio committee in Parliament. Picture: ANA

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown appears before the public enterprises portfolio committee in Parliament. Picture: ANA

The minister rejected testimony that the Gupta family prescribed to her when she had to make decisions as the sole government shareholder for the state-owned company.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and her deputy Ben Martins want to their say in Parliament to reject allegations by several witnesses in the inquiry into allegations of state capture at South Africa’s power utility, Eskom.

In a statement, Brown rejected testimony that the politically connected Gupta family prescribed to her when she had to make decisions as the sole government shareholder for the state-owned company, costing the utility billions of rands.

She went on to accuse the parliamentary inquiry of being a “kangaroo court”.

“Unless the Parliamentary inquiry into allegations of malfeasance at state-owned companies gives those who have been accused of wrong-doing the opportunity to explain their actions it will serve no higher function than advancing political agendas and further undermining the economy,” Brown said.

The minister said she wanted to set the record straight after testimony on Tuesday from the now suspended spokesman for the Eskom board, Khulani Qoma, that Brown blocked the removal of Matshela Koko as acting chief executive on instruction from the Guptas and their associates.

“…let me state unequivocally, that I do not take instructions from anybody.

“If truth be told, Eskom officials intentionally misled me on the Trillian matter and the acting chairperson has assured me that those responsible will be charged by the company,” Brown said.

Brown’s deputy Ben Martin has meanwhile also released his diary for July 29 this year after Eskom’s suspended head of legal, Suzanne Daniels, said she had met him, Ajay Gupta, and Duduzane Zuma on the day at a townhouse in Johannesburg.

She claimed that Gupta had told her he had sway in the Gauteng division of the deputy judge president’s office and would influence the timing of a court case involving the R30 million pension payout to disgraced former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe.

According to a statement from the public enterprises department, Martins attended the funeral services of veteran government spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa in Pretoria from 7am to 13h30 in full view of mourners and the media.

Martins then proceeded to an African National Congress national executive committee meeting, also in Pretoria, and was in attendance with fellow cabinet ministers Rob Davies, Ebrahim Patel and Lindiwe Zulu.

Martins cites ANC parliamentary caucus chairman Seiso Mohai, who he was seated next to, as a witness to his whereabouts between 14h30 and 19h30.

This, said the deputy minister, would have been the evidence he would have put before MPs had he been given the chance to rebut Daniels’s testimony.

The public enterprises ministry said in the absence of giving Brown and Martins an opportunity at rebuttal, the inquiry falls short of the constitutional principle of fairness.

“To be precise, the Parliamentary inquiry has permitted testimony implicating various persons without having advised those persons that they were going to be implicated. There was a duty on the part of the evidence leader to advice such other persons about testimony which was going to implicate them.”

Meanwhile Eskom also sent out a statement rejecting claims made by the witnesses at the inquiry.

“Eskom wishes to state that it distances itself from utterances made at the Parliamentary Inquiry by its board spokesperson Khulani Qoma and Head of Legal and Compliance Suzanne Daniels.”

The power utility’s chairperson Zethembe Khoza said that the manner in which Qoma spoke on Tuesday about the shareholder representative and Brown was not part of the Eskom culture.

“There have been several witnesses that have been called to give their testimonies who have clearly represented their own interests at the expense of the organisation and the country at large. We understand that Eskom will be given an opportunity to make a formal presentation at the Parliamentary Inquiry where it will give an honest, transparent and truthful account of events,” Khoza said.

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