Former Glencore CEO Clinton Ephron appeared at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture on Thursday, 9 June, where he denied the Anglo-Swiss multinational miner did not do a comprehensive due diligence when it acquired Optimum Coal Mine because it had connections with then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa.
Ephron, who was also a director of Optimum and Optimum Coal Holdings from 2013 to 2017, was testifying on Eskom related matters before commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
During the proceedings, Ephron told to the commission that prior to the acquisition of its interest in Optimum Coal Holdings, Glencore was not able to undertake a comprehensive due diligence exercise.
“We [Glencore] used the word non-comprehensive because we could not go in and kick in the tyres of every single vehicle or every single borehole in the ground, but we had sufficient information in order to give us a very reasonable understanding of the company and its value thereto,” Ephron said.
Ephron dismissed allegations that Glencore did not do due diligence because it had a connection with Ramaphosa or that the mining company planned to leverage his influence during coal price negotiations with Eskom.
“I think the allegations are preposterous and I can’t understand how and why someone would think such a thing,” he said.
Before former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe’s testimony was cut short in late January, he claimed Glencore appointed Ramaphosa chairperson of Optimum Coal Holdings in order to assist the mining company in its coal supply agreements with Eskom due to his political influence.
Molefe said Ramaphosa’s actions were “revolting”, because he was aware that he was being used for his political influence.
According to the former Eskom boss, Ramaphosa bought 9.6% of the shares in Glencore and immediately made chairperson of Optimum, because he was their “best bet”.
Ephron said “there is not an iota of evidence that points out to the fact that Glencore in any way wanted to rely on the relationship with Mr Ramaphosa as our shareholder in order to change the contract price”.
“I never asked Mr Ramaphosa to intervene on behalf of OCH or OCM in any matters relating to Eskom or the CSA [coal supply agreement] and to the best of my knowledge and recollection he never did so. So we strongly deny this allegation,” he said