I’m not captured by the Guptas or corrupt, says Eskom CEO

African News Agency (ANA)

I’m not captured by the Guptas or corrupt, says Eskom CEO
The logo of state power utility Eskom is seen outside Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant in this picture taken March 20, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Eskom group chief executive Brian Molefe on Wednesday rejected accusations that he was corrupt or captured by the Guptas, the influential Indian family said to have close ties to President Jacob Zuma, instead insisting he was captured by the Constitution.

While briefing MPs in Parliament, Molefe was put in the hot seat by MPs on his relationship with the Gupta family and accusations from National Treasury that the power utility had failed to cooperate with a probe by chief procurement officer Kenneth Brown into Eskom’s contracts with coal suppliers, including Gupta-controlled Tegeta Exploration and Resources.

“The fact that I have met the Guptas and I know them, I shook their hands and I’ve had a conversation with them does not make me corrupt, I’m sorry. We need more substance than that to prove that I’m captured and corrupt and I would contest that I’m captured or corrupt,” he said, explaining his relationship with the family.

He added that he had met business tycoons Johnathan Oppenheimer and Johann Rupert and found them both to be likeable.

“I don’t know what people expected me to have said – I have never met them and I hate them and in fact tomorrow I’m disconnecting their electricity. I think everybody would be happy with me then. Unfortunately my job is not like that.”

Molefe said allegations against the Guptas were merely “gossip and innuendo” and as long as the Guptas were not found guilty of any wrongdoing, Eskom could not merely stop doing business with them.

“Until we can get a reason to blacklist them, I’m afraid if they bid for a transaction, if they apply to do work with us, we have to consider them like everybody else and that is required of us by a document no less than the Constitution,” he said.

“I don’t know that by saying so that makes me a captured person. Perhaps I’m captured, but I am captured by the Constitution, not by the Guptas.”

Eskom board chairman Ben Ngubane was also asked directly about his relationship with the Guptas and whether his appointment was preceded by a meeting with the family.

A visibly perturbed Ngubane replied: “I had nothing to do with the Guptas or anybody else in terms of coming to the board of Eskom. Now, to be publicly impugned as if one is a lackey. I don’t need to be a lackey. I have served this country with distinction…so I reject with contempt this impugning my honour and my integrity.”

He accused critics of trying to undermine public trust in the power utility.

“This campaign to kill trust in Eskom to actually portray us as if we are committed or we are bored or we are captured is nonsense. Please help us with this. The state was captured in 1948 when the nationalists came to power,” Ngubane said.

“We have contracts at Eskom that have lasted 40 years which was approved by the Nationalist Party government giving huge prepayments, billions of dollars, to the Anglos, to the other companies which were mining coal – the five coal suppliers to Eskom…Those shareholders are sitting in London, all over the place, have benefited on the sweat of our miners. They have benefited taking money from this country because of the the state capture.”

Ngubane said Tegeta made up only five percent of the coal supplied to Eskom and payments made to the company was nothing near what the power utility has had to pay the big five mining companies.

“The prepayments we have made are not even in multi billions like before but we needed coal urgently at the time…,” he said.

“That was made because there were stations that were going to shut down and we had massive loadshedding. It was all well thought out. There was no funny tricks about it and please stop believing lies being told by other people about us.”

Molefe rubbished reports in weekend newspapers that a draft National Treasury report had found that Eskom spent over R130 million on poor quality coal from Tegeta.

“The issue of substandard coal has absolutely no basis. That coal was tested at South African Bureau of Standards [SABS],” he said, adding that employees had been suspended for classifying the coal as substandard when in fact the SABS had found differently.

He confirmed to MPs that all outstanding information required by Treasury for its probe into Eskom’s coal supply contract with Tegeta was provided.

“I can confirm that the documents were delivered to Treasury. They have been signed by someone at Treasury as received. This [Wednesday] morning, the CFO [chief financial officer] wrote a letter to Kenneth Brown to ask if there’s anything outstanding,” said Molefe.

Molefe denied not cooperating with Treasury, saying the information requested by Treasury in April was ready, but had not been signed off by the board as required by Treasury. The next board meeting was only scheduled for September, he said.

“We were supposed to wait for the board to consider the information. We were shocked and perplexed to read in the Sunday Times we are not cooperating.”

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SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)