/ 22 February 2019

Zondo commission switches to state capture at Eskom

Eskom (Madelene Cronje)

This week marked a new chapter in the mandate of the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, as it turned its focus to allegations of corruption relating to Eskom.

Eskom will be the first of a number of state-owned entities to be probed by the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.

In the coming weeks, the commission will hear evidence from Eskom executives, whistle-blowers and business people. The commission’s first witness on matters relating to Eskom will be its board chair, Jabu Mabuza.

Mabuza’s testimony on Friday will focus on the attempts by the power utility’s new board to root out corruption. Mabuza will outline the disciplinary steps taken against those facing charges of misconduct relating to state capture allegations.

His evidence will be followed by the testimony of Eskom executive Thabani Mashego, who scuppered the Gupta family’s attempts to secure a coal contract for their mining company, Tegeta. Former Eskom official Andries Bester will also give evidence relating to the Tegeta contract.

Former Glencore chief executive Clinton Ephron will also take the stand. Ephron was Glencore’s chief executive at the time it sold its Optimum coal mine to Tegeta, a transaction that was helped along by Eskom with a R659-million pre-payment.

Piers Marsden, the business rescue practitioner in charge of Optimum, will also testify about the controversial acquisition.

Evidence leader Vincent Maleka SC indicated that the commission took its cue from Parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee Eskom inquiry report, one of the 12 reports on the power utility put on record by the commission’s legal team on Wednesday.

The reports set before the commission implicate a wide range of players in the state capture project as it manifested at Eskom.

Those implicated include erstwhile Eskom executives Matshela Koko, Anoj Singh and Brian Molefe. Findings have also been made against former public enterprises ministers Lynne Brown and Malusi Gigaba, as well as former mineral resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane. Gupta-linked Trillian Capital and international management consulting firm McKinsey are also at the centre of these earlier investigations. 

These reports will serve as the starting point for the commission’s investigation, Maleka explained.

He also urged Zondo to invoke his powers to summon individuals implicated in allegations of state capture at Eskom.

“As far as we have been able to scan the history of previous inquiries on Eskom, very few individuals who have been implicated in allegations of state capture have been called upon or have had the initiative to present their own version of evidence relating to what implicates them,” Maleka said.