The commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday that Gupta business associate Salim Essa knew about the suspension of Eskom executives and a subsequent inquiry at the power utility days before these unfolded.
The former head of legal and compliance at Eskom, Suzanne Daniels, told chairperson of the commission Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo of her first meeting with Essa on 10 March 2015 facilitated by the group executive of technology at the time Matshela Koko.
Daniels told Zondo that around lunchtime on the day, Koko called her and asked that they meet at Melrose Arch “to talk to me about certain matters … but he wasn’t specific”.
After an hour of waiting for Koko, he allegedly collected Daniels from a restaurant and then took her to an office building across the road, Zondo heard.
Daniels said at the said building she handed in her cellphone at the reception area and was led to a boardroom where she, along with Koko, met with Essa.
She said Essa introduced himself as then minister of public enterprises Lynne Brown’s advisor and then asked her what would need to be done to suspended people at Eskom.
“I was a little perplexed,” Daniels said, adding that her response to Essa was that she was not a labour lawyer and that valid reasons would be required to suspend Eskom employees.
Essa then allegedly sketched out to Daniels that in the next coming days then CEO Tshediso Matona, group capital executive Dan Marokane, finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and Koko would be suspended and an inquiry at the power utility would ensue and “that certain people would not return”, Zondo heard.
The four executives were subsequently suspended, Zondo heard, paving the way for Brian Molefe to join Eskom as CEO and Anoj Singh as CFO.
Daniels told Zondo that after Essa told her about the suspensions and inquiry, he looked at Koko who sat opposite her and noticed that he looked unphased.
Daniels said she was shocked and had “frowned in bewilderment” while looking at Koko, who gestured by raising a hand that she should not ask any questions.
Daniels told Zondo that Koko did not seem shocked by Essa’s revelation and appeared to be quiet comfortable and relaxed in his chair.
“It was like an ordinary conversation, I was quite bewildered.”
After the meeting, Koko allegedly remained behind, Zondo heard.
In his affidavit to the commission, Koko agrees to calling and arranging to meet Daniels at Melrose Arch and that when they met, they did not leave the mall but remained at the restaurant where he, Koko, sought advice on labour rights issues because the Eskom chair at the time Zola Tsotsi was threatening him with suspension if he did not reverse a suspension of an Eskom official.
“With respect, Mr chairman, Matshela Koko is lying,” Daniels said, adding that on the day, Koko did mention his “tussle” with Tsotsi but did not mention Tsotsi’s alleged threats and the issue of the suspended official.
Daniels told the commission that the Guptas have never offered her “bags of cash”, have never entertained her at their residence or in Dubai and had never invited her to any of the functions they hosted and so she does not understand why there had been a “blatant” attempt to bring her closer.
She said she thinks maybe Koko at the time trusted that she would not tell anyone about the meeting with Essa and what had been discussed.