Zola Tsotsi. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER
Zola Tsotsi. Picture: ESA ALEXANDER

Former Eskom board chairman Zola Tsotsi was the first witness in parliament's state- capture inquiry to implicate President Jacob Zuma in the capture of the power utility.

Tsotsi dropped several bombshells in his testimony before the inquiry.

He told of how, in March 2015, former SA Airways board chairman Dudu Myeni asked him to arrange an "audience" with Zuma to discuss Eskom.

Tsotsi told MPs he went to Zuma's Durban home on March 7 2015 where he met Myeni, her son Thalente and Nick Lennell, introduced as a lawyer.

Tsotsi said Myeni had told him that, because of Eskom's financial difficulties, an inquiry should be instituted and three of the utility's executives - acting CEO Tshediso Matona, Dan Marokane and Matshela Koko - should be suspended.

Shortly after that Zuma entered the room.

After some pleasantries he requested to know what was up for discussion, whereupon "Ms Myeni repeated what she had previously stated", he said.

Myeni then suggested that Lennell draft a resolution to present to the board.

Asked whether he believed that the convening of an inquiry and the suspension of the executives were on the instructions of the president, Tsotsi said: "I took it that he has an interest in seeing that this happens."

Tsotsi said, even though it was not clear whether the idea came from Zuma, his interest indicated "it would be prudent for the board to take this issue and examine it".

On March 11 2015 the board called Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to a meeting at which the inquiry and the suspensions were discussed and the corresponding resolutions were adopted.

Tsotsi said he made it known that the "suggestion" had come from the meeting with Zuma. He said that a few weeks earlier he had received a phone call from Zuma.

The board, installed in December 2014, was due to hold its first meeting in February. The night before the meeting Zuma "then informed me that the board meeting will not be taking place".

Tsotsi said he had already begun to feel that "sinister clouds were gathering". In February 2015 Tsotsi said Brown told him that if he did not stop interfering in the work of Eskom management she would replace him. Later that day, he said, Tony Gupta asked to meet him.

"At the meeting Tony told me: 'Chairman, you are not helping us with anything. We are the ones who put you in the position you are in. We are the ones who can take you out'," Tsotsi said.

Tsotsi told of a meeting at Brown's home at which Tony Gupta and Salim Essa were present - allegedly to discuss appointments to the board that Essa, the "Gupta lieutenant", had become involved in.

"I got a list [from Essa] and I changed the list on the basis of what I thought it should be and I sent it to the minister. She sent it back and it hadn't changed from when I got it," he said. Tsotsi detailed how Gupta would threaten to go to "uBaba" - a name used in political circles for Zuma - when Tsotsi was unable to cater to his requests.

Brown, who testified after Tsotsi, refuted his statements by saying: "I've never consulted anyone on my executive functions. Not Tony Gupta or Salim Essa - why would I hand over my conscience to anyone else?"

- The Times


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