Wit­nesses called for start of Eskom probe

• Iden­ti­ties of some state cap­ture whis­tle-blow­ers will be con­cealed be­cause of safety con­cerns

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Bekezela Phakathi Par­lia­men­tary Writer phakathib@busi­nesslive.co.za

The port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on pub­lic en­ter­prises will in­ter­view up to 40 wit­nesses from next Tues­day as part of its in­quiry into the cap­ture of Eskom. Com­mit­tee mem­bers de­cided in a closed meet­ing on Wednesday that the in­quiry would be open to the pub­lic. How­ever, for se­cu­rity rea­sons, the names of whis­tle-blow­ers would not be pub­li­cised.

The port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on pub­lic en­ter­prises will in­ter­view up to 40 wit­nesses from next Tues­day as part of its in­quiry into the cap­ture of Eskom.

Com­mit­tee mem­bers de­cided in a closed meet­ing on Wednesday that the in­quiry will be open to the pub­lic.

How­ever, for se­cu­rity rea­sons, the names of whistle­blow­ers called to give tes­ti­mony will not be pub­li­cised be­fore they ap­pear.

MPs say that should the names be made pub­lic be­fore the whis­tle-blow­ers give tes­ti­mony, they may be vic­timised and pre­vented from at­tend­ing the in­quiry al­to­gether.

In some in­stances, wit­nesses will give ev­i­dence in cam­era and, in ex­treme cases, their iden­ti­ties will be dis­guised.

The in­quiry will look into state cap­ture and the abuse of pub­lic re­sources‚ par­tic­u­larly at Eskom, and will have an ex­pe­ri­enced le­gal prac­ti­tioner as an ev­i­dence leader, as was the case with the South African Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion in­quiry.

Wit­nesses will be called from Oc­to­ber 17, act­ing com­mit­tee chair­woman Zuk­iswa Ran­tho said. “The com­mit­tee is busy with the process of in­ter­act­ing with the wit­nesses to give them enough time to pre­pare for the in­quiry,” she said.

In July, Ran­tho gave the as­sur­ance that the three Gupta brothers and Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma would be called as wit­nesses.

DA MP and pub­lic en­ter­prises spokes­woman Natasha Maz­zone, who was part of the com­mit­tee meet­ing on Wednesday, con­firmed that the Gup­tas and Duduzane were ex­pected to ap­pear be­fore the in­quiry. The com­mit­tee had pow­ers to sub­poena and wit­nesses called had to at­tend, Maz­zone said.

Of im­por­tance was the pro­tec­tion of whis­tle-blow­ers, some of whom had con­tacted ev­i­dence leader Ntuthuzelo Va­nara ex­press­ing their con­cern about tes­ti­fy­ing. Maz­zone said the com­mit­tee was tak­ing their se­cu­rity “very se­ri­ously”.

The in­quiry’s terms of ref­er­ence in­clude the reap­point­ment of Brian Molefe as group CEO of Eskom, the power util­ity’s role in the pur­chase of Op­ti­mum Coal Hold­ings by Gupta-owned Tegeta Ex­plo­ration and Re­sources, the award­ing of about R11.7bn worth of coal sup­ply con­tracts — at in­flated prices — to Tegeta, the R43m con­tract with the Gup­tas’ The New Age me­dia firm, pay­ments of more than R400m to Tril­lian Cap­i­tal Part­ners for con­sult­ing and ad­vi­sory ser­vices and al­le­ga­tions of im­pro­pri­ety against for­mer act­ing CEO Mat­shela Koko, who is on sus­pen­sion.

Wit­nesses ini­tially iden­ti­fied in­clude Molefe, Koko and Eskom chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Anoj Singh.

/Bloomberg

Power probe: Eskom will take cen­tre stage next week at an in­quiry by the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee of pub­lic en­ter­prises into state cap­ture and abuse of pub­lic re­sources at the state-owned power util­ity.

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