Dear Hawks and NPA: How to do your jobs

Memo to Shaun Abrahams: We’ve compiled a cut-out-and-keep charge sheet for your convenience. (Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo)

Memo to Shaun Abrahams: We’ve compiled a cut-out-and-keep charge sheet for your convenience. (Alon Skuy/The Times/Gallo)


Dear Berning and Shaun

It’s been a rough week, we know, so we really don’t want to say we told you so.

But we told you so.

Those charges against Pravin and Oupa and Ivan were never going to stand up. You were always going to find yourself explaining why you threw investigative and prosecutorial resources into a no-hoper like that.

And then to have that thing with Robert, where your entire case evaporates because witnesses get difficult, in the very same week, gosh. That’s the kind of thing the other diplomats will use to make fun of you for years after you become ambassadors.

We can’t have that.

You won’t believe it, but the solution to your problem also arrived this week, from Thuli of all people.

You remember Thuli? Soft-spoken, nice hair, everybody thinks she’s the country’s greatest investigator? Her.

  We know you won’t have had time to read her State of Capture report, what with being so busy pursuing all those civil servants standing in the way of the free flow of tenders.

Take our word for it, though, it’s a cracking read.
There’s, like, all this evidence stuff in there.

Did you know you can subpoena old cellphone records to figure out who was where, when? It’s like living in the future.

(She also locked a guy in a room for four hours when he wouldn’t answer her questions, so there’s real, honest police work there too.)

Here’s the thing: Thuli also identified all these people who broke all kinds of laws! It’s like a barrel of criminal fish just waiting for you. All the hard work has already been done, but – and this is the really neat bit – when you slap these people in handcuffs in front of our cameras, everyone will give you the credit, and talk about how brave and impartial you are.

  It’s still a 355-page report, that State of Capture thing, and we know you have trouble reading all the documents you should while investigating and before announcing prosecutions, or else that whole Pravin debacle would never have happened.

So we’ve gone through and broken down the charges for you. You can basically just print out this page and take it to court.

You can thank us later.

Your friends at the Mail & Guardian

(PS: we don’t want to speculate, and we don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but there is just the tiniest possibility that some of these people are little fish who, when faced with jail and/or financial ruin, may be willing to help you out in catching some bigger fish. #JustSayin’)


  • Fraud to a value of more than R500 000: 15-year or so jail term
  • Breaches of mine rehabilitation rules: R10-million fine and/or 10 years in jail

Thuli says the way these guys said they got a big prepayment from Eskom that was absolutely, positively, definitely not intended or used to buy a coal mine – which it turns out they used to buy a coal mine – could be fraud.

These are just the ones who should have known the nature of the transaction, because they were directors or shareholders, so you may even be able to bulk up the list a bit with your own investigation.

There’s also those dodgy dealings with the mine rehabilitation funds, which, it turns out, may have breached two different laws.

  The suspects: Atul Gupta, Varun Gupta, Rajesh Gupta, Ronica Ragavan, Salim Essa, Nazeem Howa, Duduzane Zuma, Ashu Chawla and Ravindra Nath.

(There are also some people from Dubai involved, but no reason to go through all that extradition trouble with so many South African residents to choose from.)


  • Wilful or grossly negligent failure to comply with the Public Finance Management Act: up to five years in jail

Thuli says Eskom bent over backwards to fund the Guptas and, in a few instances, it bent so far that it was probably illegal. Because, you know, we have laws on how you can’t just waste public money, and not just for early pensions.

She also seems to think that Eskom’s board falls under these rules, and she’s handily identified everyone at one meeting who seems to fit the bill.

Add in the two executives who signed off on the deals and you have a full deck.

  The suspects: Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko, Zethembe Khoza, Chwayita Mabude, Viroshini Naidoo and Nazia Carrim.

(You can go after other board members too, and probably other executives, but low-hanging fruit first, right?)

Dark smudges against Eskom over coal mine

One of the first things Brian Molefe did when he took over Eskom, former public protector Thuli Madonsela found, was to put the Glencore-owned Optimum coal mine out of business – by turning down a deal that was all but signed already.

“It appears that the conduct of Eskom was solely for the purposes of forcing [Optimum] into business rescue and financial distress,” Madonsela wrote in her State of Capture report. Once the Gupta-controlled Tegeta took over Optimum, Eskom’s approach changed.

Over four months, Madonsela found, Eskom paid Tegeta R1.2-billion for coal, some of it yet to be mined.

Of this, at least R910-million “was diverted by Tegeta to fund 42% of the purchase price” to buy Optimum out of business rescue.

First Eskom put Optimum out of business, then it gave Tegeta money to buy Optimum. Along the way, Madonsela found, Tegeta (and its shareholders) lied about a massive prepayment from Eskom, may have committed fraud and messed around with a mine rehabilitation fund in a possibly criminal manner.

She also found Eskom executives and board members may have criminally breached public finance management rules. – Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet

Phillip de Wet writes about politics, society, economics, and the areas where these collide. He has never been anything other than a journalist, though he has been involved in starting new newspapers, magazines and websites, a suspiciously large percentage of which are no longer in business. PGP fingerprint: CF74 7B0F F037 ACB9 779C 902B 793C 8781 4548 D165 Read more from Phillip de Wet

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