Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has released a damning report calling for action against Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.
She found that the minister had misled parliament – apparently inadvertently – by maintaining that Trillian, a Gupta-linked consultancy firm, had not been granted Eskom contracts, when it had through a controversial relationship with international consultancy giant McKinsey for which the latter has already apologised after expressing “embarrassment”.
Mkhwebane has recommended that President Cyril Ramaphosa take action against Brown within 14 days. She has not specified what form this action should take. However, it is expected that Ramaphosa will be announcing a cabinet reshuffle soon.
“Minister Brown inadvertently misled Parliament in her assertion that there were no other contracts of engagement concluded between Eskom and Trillian.”
In a statement on Friday morning, Brown has blamed Eskom, saying officials deliberately misled her, and she merely passed on that incorrect information, but she immediately informed parliament’s Ethics Committee and the public protector of what had happened when she became aware that she was lied to.
“According to the information I received from Eskom in response to the questions filed by the chief financial officer on beheld of the chief executive officer, no payments were made. I relayed this information to Parliament, but it emerged that Eskom had indeed made payments to Trillian.”
She claims the information was signed off by the chief financial officer on behalf of the chief executive officer.
The DA has called for her axing. The party’s shadow minister of public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, has said Brown was allowed to act with impunity for far too long and her leadership had been very negative for state-owned companies, particularly Eskom.
She said in a statement, which was echoed by other parties including, the Congress of the People: “Basically our call has become an extremely urgent one for President Cyril Ramaphosa to act swiftly against the minister and immediately fire her from his cabinet.
“If the president is committed to building a government that is beyond reproach, he must remove anyone who’s found guilty of unethical behaviour from his cabinet.”
She told news channel eNCA that because the amounts of money involved were so “obscenely large” that only made the need to fire her more important. She believed Ramaphosa should be given the benefit of the doubt and was hopeful he would remove anyone tainted by “the whiff of state capture”.
The Gupta family, who often leveraged their friendship with former president Jacob Zuma to secure state contracts and influence, have become deeply embattled since Ramaphosa’s election as president of the ANC in December.