Former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi told the Zondo commission he was embarrassed when he had to tell Eskom executive Steve Lennon that he would not be made CEO of Eskom. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi told the Zondo commission he was embarrassed when he had to tell Eskom executive Steve Lennon that he would not be made CEO of Eskom. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Former minister of public enterprises Malusi Gigaba opposed the appointment of Steve Lennon as acting CEO of Eskom because he was white and would be frowned on by the ANC’s electoral support base.

This was revealed by former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi, who was giving evidence on Thursday before the Zondo commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.

According to Tsotsi, the board he chaired had wanted Lennon to act in the role when then CEO Brian Dames left, a decision he communicated to Gigaba, who at first agreed.

However, said Tsotsi, Gigaba came back weeks later, lambasting him “for appointing a white man when the ANC was facing the general elections”.

Gigaba instructed Tsotsi that Lennon could not be CEO and that the board appoint Collin Matjila.

He said be believed that someone had influenced Gigaba and that it “was not him speaking”. 

Tsotsi said the board was not happy “because this flew in the face of a decision that we made”. Matjila was a board member at the time.

“That is how Mr Matjila came to act as the CEO. When I say my term was turbulent from that time, this was a result of unhappiness by many board members about what transpired.”

On his appointment as acting CEO in April 2014, Matjila hit the ground running, approving a R49m sponsorship for the Guptas’ The New Age breakfasts from Eskom coffers.  

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo asked Tsotsi if Gigaba told him what had changed his mind, having initially agreed to Lennon’s appointment.

Tsotsi responded: “I was perplexed why there was a change of mind. He did not give an explanation.”

Zondo asked Tsotsi how Lennon took the news that he would no longer be acting CEO.

“It was very embarrassing. I felt some sense of guilt. I could not say to him what Gigaba told me [that we should not appoint a white man]. I made some excuse. He then asked to retire. It had a very unhappy ending for him,” Tsotsi said.