Sikonathi Mantshantsha Deputy editor: Financial Mail

First published in March 2017.

Lynne Brown. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Lynne Brown. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

Ever since I first met her I have been struck by Lynne Brown’s refreshing, motherly spirit. Talking to the public enterprises minister, you feel you are talking to someone you can do business with. Not for her any treading on eggshells. She speaks in a frank manner, like the teacher she was. She has the ability to instill some confidence in her listeners.

Unlike so many politicians and businesspeople who seem to think their silver tongues can magically convert fiction to acceptable reality, this former United Democratic Front activist has no time for linguistic gymnastics. She has a tendency to be too frank.

Eskom chairman Ben Ngubane found that out the hard way in January. In a media briefing at Eskom’s headquarters, Brown blasted Ngubane’s lies right out of the water, with very little effort.

She told those assembled that the Dentons report into Eskom’s near-collapse was “inadequate for use by the company” and that the probe was “incomplete”. In plain language she was saying the report into Eskom was a useless waste of millions in taxpayers’ money.

Her words jarred with what Ngubane had been saying for two years. Sitting less than a metre from her, he failed to correct the minister. This exposed his assertion that Dentons had completed its report, and that Eskom was implementing the law firm’s recommendations to put it on a sustainable footing.

The tragedy of SA, though, is that Brown has fallen into that trap of many public servants, turning against the public in favour of her corrupt comrades in the party and government.

By allowing the parastatal to protect the thieves that were accused of looting the company, and then her role in allowing the Eskom board to hide the truth from the people, she made herself complicit in the patently illegal activity. She is, after all, the political head of Eskom, a shareholder representing the people.

Her allowing the board to destroy the allegations of wrongdoing by Eskom’s senior people, instead of thoroughly investigating them and holding anyone found guilty accountable, makes her part of the problem. Brown is the one who confirmed what I, by then, already knew, that “there are people’s names there [in the report], and we don’t want to go there [publishing it or investigating anything]”. She was incriminating the whole board.

Like dozens of previously reputable professionals, she has thrown away her life’s work to jump into bed with the corrupt.

In so doing, she has chosen the corrupt elite over the people for and with whom she struggled for good governance when she joined the struggle as a young person 40 years ago.

Like so many bright and upright people in what used to be the public service, Brown has allowed her integrity to be compromised to serve the greedy and corrupt elite.

She has joined the ranks of Brian Molefe and Faith Muthambi, the miscommunications minister, in the army of state capturists.

The Prevention & Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 enjoins “any person who holds a position of authority and who knows or ought reasonably to have known or suspected that any other person has committed an offence of theft, fraud ... must report such knowledge or suspicion or cause such knowledge or suspicion to be reported to any police official”.

Brown didn’t report. She didn’t instruct the board of Eskom to investigate or report the allegations of corruption. She helped cover up the alleged corruption. In so doing, she made herself guilty of concealment. She and the board must be declared delinquent for exposing Eskom to more risk of corruption by those who have been accused.

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