Name-cleans­ing at­tempt brings rot to light

The Sunday Independent - - BUSINESS REPORT - Siseko Njobeni

AS PRES­I­DENT Ja­cob Zuma dithers about the es­tab­lish­ment of a com­mis­sion of in­quiry into state cap­ture, it has been left to the par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into Eskom to lay bare to the pub­lic gaze sor­did de­tails of gov­er­nance fail­ures, cor­rup­tion, mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and machi­na­tions at the power util­ity.

While sus­pended le­gal and com­pli­ance head Suzanne Daniels’s tes­ti­mony was ex­plo­sive, it was Deputy Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Ben Martins’s at­tempt to clear his name that pointed to more rot in state-owned en­ter­prises.

Daniels told the in­quiry that Martins was part of a meet­ing at which Ajay Gupta tried to in­flu­ence the dates of Brian Molefe’s court case on his con­tro­ver­sial pen­sion pay-out.

Martins said he had not been part of the meet­ing and branded Daniels a liar.

In the process of clear­ing his name, Martins in­ad­ver­tently let slip how, dur­ing his reign as trans­port min­is­ter, Tony Gupta, the youngest of the Gupta broth­ers, had tried to in­flu­ence lead­er­ship changes at the Pas­sen­ger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).

Ac­cord­ing to Martins, for­mer Prasa chief ex­ec­u­tive Lucky Mon­tana was con­cerned that the Gup­tas wanted to re­move him – and LET IT SLIP: Min­is­ter of Trans­port Ben Martins spilled the beans on Tony Gupta. then-board chair­per­son and cur­rent Deputy Fi­nance Min­is­ter Sfiso Buthelezi.

In re­sponse, Martins had in­vited Tony Gupta and Mon­tana to his of­fi­cial res­i­dence in Tsh­wane.

He did not elab­o­rate why he had felt the need to dis­cuss Prasa lead­er­ship with Tony Gupta.

On Thurs­day, Mon­tana dropped a bomb­shell, con­tra­dict­ing Martins in a se­ries of tweets. It turns out, at least ac­cord­ing to Mon­tana, that Zuma’s son Duduzane came to the meet­ing in the com­pany of Tony Gupta.

Mon­tana said he had not been aware that Tony Gupta and Duduzane were go­ing to be part of the meet­ing.

“For the record, I never knew nor met any Gupta un­til in­vited by Martins at his of­fi­cial res­i­dence,” said Mon­tana, ef­fec­tively say­ing Martins had in­tro­duced him to the Gup­tas.

In re­cent years, Eskom’s shenani­gans have ru­ined ca­reers.

Tsediso Ma­tona’s brief stay as chief ex­ec­u­tive is just but one. Af­ter join­ing Eskom in Oc­to­ber 2014, he was sus­pended in March 2015.

The board, un­der Zola Tsotsi at the time, said there was an im­pend­ing in­quiry which would zoom into the util­ity’s de­lays in bring­ing the new gen­er­a­tion plant on-stream, high costs of pri­mary en­ergy and Eskom’s cash flow prob­lems.

Ma­tona was sus­pended with for­mer fi­nance di­rec­tor Tsholofelo Molefe, group cap­i­tal head Dan Marokane and for­mer com­mer­cial and tech­nol­ogy head Mat­shela Koko.

Ma­tona, Marokane and Molefe reached set­tle­ment agree­ments with Eskom.

In his tes­ti­mony this week, Ma­tona spoke of fear and ten­sion that had gripped the power util­ity dur­ing his ten­ure there. This was at a time when Eskom was grap­pling with load shed­ding, a main­te­nance back­log and fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

Last month an­other for­mer Eskom chief ex­ec­u­tive, Brian Dames, told the in­quiry of the Eskom board’s in­volve­ment in pro­cure­ment.

Molefe was more sting­ing, charg­ing that dur­ing Tsotsi’s time, there was dis­re­gard for pro­cure­ment pro­cesses.

“Zola Tsotsi in­di­cated that we are wast­ing time with long-winded pro­cure­ment pro­cesses. (This) sug­gested to me that he had no re­gard for those pro­cure­ment reg­u­la­tions,” she said.

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