Brown says she testified despite legal warning to avoid state-capture hearing
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown’s appearance before the parliamentary inquiry into the state capture of state-owned enterprises went against the advice of her legal advisers who had advised her to decline the invitation to give evidence.
The minister said in a statement read out to the portfolio committee on public enterprises Wednesday that the legal advice was based on the view that the committee’s process "was unfair, inappropriately accusatorial, and that my appearance would only serve to legitimise a predetermined interim report containing a rehash of untested information designed to embarrass particular positions.
"I did not take that legal advice because the constitutional principles that members of the executive should account to Parliament and the people have the right to know are more important than any of us."
Brown insisted that her interest was to ensure a fair and just process and noted that no committee member had insisted on this.
She rejected a suggestion by evidence leader Nthuthuzelo Vanara that she had been "obstructionist" in writing three letters requesting clarity on a number of issues and in not demonstrating a willingness to assist the committee with its inquiry. One of the questions the minister asked was whether the committee would rely on the unverified leaked Gupta e-mails.
But Brown said she had used what legal and constitutional recourse was available to her.
Questioned about her role in the suspension of three senior executives in March 2015 — allegedly engineered by President Jacob Zuma and the Guptas — Brown said it was a proposal by the board which she accepted.
Her major concern at the time was for there to be a "deep down" investigation into the problems at Eskom which at the time was in a precarious financial position. It was also having to implement stage three load-shedding.
Brown said that greater than her concern over the suspensions was the state of Eskom.
Brown also rejected as false Tsotsi’s claim that when he visited Brown at her home Gupta-associate Salim Essa and Tony Gupta were present.
She effectively accused former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi of lying in claiming that she had told then Eskom director Ben Ngubane that the financial director Tsholofelo Molefe should also be suspended along with the three already agreed upon by the board. This suspension took place.
Dealing with board appointments Brown said she had never changed the shortlist of candidates proposed by her department and that the Cabinet appointed board members.
The minister also highlighted the concerns that she had had "about the credibility, reliability and slow flow of information" submitted to government by Eskom.