MPs to protect Eskom whistle-blowers in public inquiry into state capture
Their identities will be concealed until the inquiry, and in some cases they will give evidence in camera
The portfolio committee on public enterprises will interview up to 40 witnesses from next Tuesday as part of its inquiry into the capture of Eskom.
Committee members decided in a closed meeting on Wednesday that the inquiry will be open to the public.
However, for security reasons, the names of whistle-blowers called to give testimony will not be publicised before they appear.
MPs say that should the names be made public before the whistle-blowers give testimony, they may be victimised and prevented from attending the inquiry altogether.
In some instances, witnesses will give evidence in camera and, in extreme cases, their identities will be disguised.
The inquiry will look into state capture and the abuse of public resources‚ particularly at Eskom, and will have an experienced legal practitioner as an evidence leader, as was the case with the South African Broadcasting Corporation inquiry.
Witnesses will be called from October 17, acting committee chairwoman Zukiswa Rantho said. "The committee is busy with the process of interacting with the witnesses to give them enough time to prepare for the inquiry," she said.
In July, Rantho gave the assurance that the three Gupta brothers and President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma would be called as witnesses.
DA MP and public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Mazzone, who was part of the committee meeting on Wednesday, confirmed that the Guptas and Duduzane were expected to appear before the inquiry. The committee had powers to subpoena and witnesses called had to attend, Mazzone said.
Of importance was the protection of whistle-blowers, some of whom had contacted evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara expressing their concern about testifying. Mazzone said the committee was taking their security "very seriously".
The inquiry’s terms of reference include the reappointment of Brian Molefe as group CEO of Eskom, the power utility’s role in the purchase of Optimum Coal Holdings by Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources, the awarding of about R11.7bn worth of coal supply contracts — at inflated prices — to Tegeta, the R43m contract with the Guptas’ The New Age media firm, payments of more than R400m to Trillian Capital Partners for consulting and advisory services and allegations of impropriety against former acting CEO Matshela Koko, who is on suspension.
Witnesses initially identified include Molefe, Koko and Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh.