Former Eskom board chair Zola Tsotsi at the Eskom inquiry in Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Former Eskom board chair Zola Tsotsi at the Eskom inquiry in Parliament. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

President Jacob Zuma was directly linked to Eskom’s capture by former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi on Wednesday.

Zuma, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and their Gupta associates were the “hidden hand” that Tsotsi said was orchestrating affairs at the utility.

This is the first direct link of Zuma to allegations of state capture. The closest he has come to being linked with such allegations was through his son Duduzane and the Guptas.

But on Wednesday, Tsotsi told MPs in the state-capture hearings that Zuma, in cahoots with then SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni, had played a direct role in dislodging senior executives from Eskom, opening the way for the appointment of Brian Molefe as CEO and Anoj Singh as chief financial officer.

Both have been implicated in concluding deals with Gupta-owned companies.

Tsotsi, who was chairman of Eskom between June 2011 and March 2015, also told the  inquiry of approaches made to him by Tony Gupta regarding the affairs of Eskom and the association between Brown and the Guptas.

He recounted how on the eve of the first meeting of the new board appointed in December 2014, he had received a call from Zuma, “who informed me that the board meeting will not be taking place and that the acting director-general [of public enterprises] will call me to ask me to postpone it”.

“Shortly thereafter, I received a call from the acting director-general to say that the minister had asked for the meeting to
be postponed. Hardly a week later, I was called by Dudu Myeni. She said that I should avail myself for an audience with the president.

“On or about 7 March 2015, I arrived at the Durban presidential residence and was met by Dudu Myeni, her son Talent and a certain Mr Nick Lennell [Linnell], who was introduced to me as a lawyer.”

Ms Myeni then proceeded to outline the purpose of the meeting — the situation of Eskom’s financial stress and poor technical performance — which she insisted required that an inquiry be instituted.

Myeni said CEO Tshediso Matona, group executive for capital Dan Marokane and group executive for commercial Matshela Koko [the only executive subsequently reemployed] would have to be suspended while the inquiry was under way.

“According to Tsotsi, financial director Tsholofelo Molefe was also eventually suspended on Brown’s instruction.

When Zuma entered the room, Myeni explained what was being discussed. Myeni said Linnell could assist with the suspensions. Linnell said he would draft a resolution for Tsotsi to submit to the board, setting out the rationale for the inquiry.

The proposed resolution was presented by Linnell to a board meeting on March 9 2015 and another board meeting was held with Brown two days later to discuss the matter. Brown supported the suspension of the three executives.

“The second astonishing event had to do with the appointment of the executives who had to act for those suspended. Hardly an hour after the end of the board meeting, which decided on the suspensions, Ms Chwayita Mabude [director] was announcing the names of the people and the governance committee of the executives who were going to act. Once again, Dr Ngubane said these names came from the minister.”

Tsotsi related how the board engaged a law firm to trump up charges against him that he was not fit to be a director.

“On March 23, in the dead of night, I was given an ultimatum by the board to resign or be charged with lack of fitness to be a director. I resigned under duress.” Tsotsi said he felt as if these events had been orchestrated from outside Eskom. He also described how shortly after the appointment of the new board in December 2014, Brown had called him to meet her at her home. Two other people were also present, Tony Gupta and Essa. The question under discussion was board allocations.

Tsotsi said Essa would draw up board allocations [to the various board committees] for Tsotsi, which he would send to the minister. It seemed to Tsotsi that he was not able to proceed on the matter without the involvement of Essa.

Any changes Tsotsi introduced to Essa’s list were overturned by Brown. “My hands were tied. There is a clear association between minister Brown and the Gupta family.” Tsotsi also described how Brown supported the suspensions.

When Tsotsi phoned Brown to express his concern over the suspensions, he said “the minister would have none of it and told me to go and do what I was required to do”.

In her testimony, Brown rejected Tsotsi’s accusation that she had consulted anyone about her executive functions — not Tony Gupta, Gupta associate Essa nor anyone else. “Insofar as board appointments are concerned, I report to Cabinet and Cabinet decides who serves on boards,” she said.

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