A woman carries firewood on her head as she walks below Eskom's electricity pylons in Soweto. Picture: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
A woman carries firewood on her head as she walks below Eskom's electricity pylons in Soweto. Picture: REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

SA’s state power utility deliberately deceived the central bank to ensure it was granted permission to conclude a R25bn loan agreement with China’s Huarong Energy Africa, according to a senior company official.

Eskom Holdings gave the SA Reserve Bank incomplete and inaccurate information about the loan, meaning it was unable to make a properly informed decision on whether to give it the go-ahead, Sincedile Shweni, a corporate specialist at the utility’s treasury department, said at the judicial commission of inquiry in Johannesburg on Monday. Had the correct information been supplied, the deal would have fallen through, he said.

The commission, headed by deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo, was established to probe allegations that billions of rand of taxpayer funds was stolen from the government coffers by allies of former president Jacob Zuma with his tacit consent, with Eskom a prime target in the looting spree. Zuma has denied wrongdoing.

The loan agreement between Eskom and Huarong was signed by the utility’s then acting CEO Sean Maritz and Huarong Energy Africa chair Jianbao Chen in October 2017. Maritz was suspended from his post in January 2018 and resigned two months later. Testimony before the commission has implicated Maritz in taking kickbacks on the deal, an allegation he denies.

Huarong’s offer of a loan was unsolicited and was not processed by Eskom’s asset risk and liability committee, which would normally consider such proposals and analyse them critically, according to Shweni. The deal was instead referred to one of the utility’s more senior management structures, a “suspicious” deviation from the normal procedure, he said.

Bloomberg