Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba threw the weight of National Treasury behind a multibillion-rand civil claim against Eskom, President Jacob Zuma, the Guptas and 69 others on Friday, before Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa fired the entire Eskom board and appointed a new one on Saturday.
Gigaba’s intentions were revealed yesterday by citizen activist and CEO of financial company Sygnia Magda Wierzycka, who shared the notice from Gigaba’s attorneys. The Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF), supported by Wierzycka, has initiated legal proceedings against Eskom, Zuma, the Gupta family, Duduzane Zuma and others in a bid to recover R5 billion in illicit expenditure.
The Guptas’ bank, Bank of Baroda, said on Wednesday it would open its books following a request in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act from Vlad Movshovich of Webber Wentzel Gupta empire besieged on behalf of Wierzycka. Political analyst Daniel Silke said there was a double message behind Gigaba’s support for the civil claim.
“Gigaba is certainly trying to ingratiate himself with the Ramaphosa faction. I think many ministers who have been on the borderline in terms of their past history and the factions they’ve historically supported in the run-up to December will be assessing how the sands of power have shifted in the last few weeks.
“Those ministers, and Gigaba is one of them, who feel enough power has shifted to Ramaphosa and that the momentum certainly is with those who are going to call out the corrupt, will want to be on the right side of history.”
He said that any pending cabinet reshuffle, which is a given when Ramaphosa takes overall power, would “add impetus to be seen to be on the right side, on the winning side, on Ramaphosa’s side. Certainly Gigaba has woken up to the fact there is a dire debt problem, not only Eskom debt but the broader debt-to-GDP ratio of South Africa, which has skyrocketed.”
It also emerged on Saturday that the National Prosecuting Authority, via the Asset Forfeiture Unit, has taken over the Gupta-linked Estina Dairy Project in the Free State after a high court order issued on Thursday in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
The court also froze payments totalling more than R220 million made by Estina to Atul Gupta (R10 million), Bank of Baroda (R30 million), Oakbay Investments (R25.5 million), VRLS investments (R15 million), among others, which it said constituted “the proceeds of crime”.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane is also in the firing line as at the time he was Free State MEC for agriculture and identified the land and handed it over under a 99-year lease for free.
On Saturday, Ramaphosa appointed Phakamani Hadebe as Eskom’s acting CEO, effective immediately. “Any further deterioration of Eskom’s financial and operational conditions could have a severe impact on the country,” said Ramaphosa.
The board appointments were widely welcomed, with the DA’s Natasha Mazzone saying Hadebe and new board chairperson Jabu Mabuza both had “excellent track records and vast financial and business experience”.
HSF spokesperson Anton van Dalsen said: “We don’t have a court date, but Treasury’s support shows things are moving and against the background of the last week or so, it’s going in the right direction.”