Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has categorically denied that she consulted anyone about her executive functions — not Tony Gupta, Gupta-associate Salim Essa, nor anyone else.

The minister rejected accusations in this regard made by former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi earlier in the day.

The minister gave testimony under oath at the parliamentary public inquiry into capture by state-owned enterprises (SOEs) being conducted by the portfolio committee on public enterprises.

The committee has decided to invite the three Gupta brothers — Tony, Ajay and Atul — to answer allegations against them. Also to be invited is President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, former South African Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni, Essa, and Eric Wood, who was involved with Gupta-linked companies, Regiments Capital and Trillian. If there is any resistance to making an appearance they will be subpoenaed.

Brown asked why she would hand over her functions to anyone else. “Insofar as board appointments are concerned, I report to Cabinet and Cabinet decides who serves on boards. Recommendations to establish sub-committees come to me from the boards, in writing. The chair of the board sends me a letter with the names of the people in the sub-committees. Usually, I approve it because the chairs of sub-committees generally know their members better than I do.”

Brown said she was “quite astonished that Mr Tsotsi found it appropriate to attend a meeting with the president” without conferring with her before the meeting, and not bothering to share the outcomes of the engagement with the president with her.

In her statement to the committee, Brown said cleaning up SOEs was of secondary importance to using the trouble they were in to achieve short-term political and business objectives “regardless to the cost to the company or the country”.

In this context there was no time to wait for proper investigations by the law enforcement agencies following due legal process.

“Information is constantly regurgitated as if repeating it often enough will prove it is true. The same allegations leveled against the same individuals [go] around and around, destroying the reputations of companies that form the spine and the ribs of our economy, and people who have been associated with them, including me.”

Brown said the best thing for the country was to have a comprehensive investigation. The establishment of a crack investigating team by the National Prosecuting Authority was heartening, she said, and her request for a Special Investigating Unit probe into Eskom was awaiting approval by Zuma. Also, the commission of inquiry into state capture was imminent.

“It presently feels as if Eskom has been beaten to the ground and is being pinned down by the weight of untested allegations ,while being kicked to death.”

Brown said what was desperately needed was for the wheels of justice to be sped up, and noted that a “thoroughly toxic environment” had been created at the worst possible time for the country.

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