Zondo commission continues to probe Eskom’s dark days

The Zondo commission of inquiry continues on Monday with more evidence of alleged corruption at Eskom expected to be laid bare.

Eskom treasury official Sincedile Shweni is scheduled to give testimony on Monday. Shweni’s testimony follows that of Eskom treasurer Andre Pillay, who detailed the events leading to the controversial loan agreement between the ailing power utility and China-based Huarong.

READ MORE: Singh was undeterred by Huarong loan red flags — Eskom treasurer

During his testimony on Friday, Pillay revealed the implications of Eskom’s funding crisis under the leadership of its former chief financial officer Anoj Singh.

“If we were not able to resolve this crisis, that could potentially default Eskom under its debt obligations and this is a systemic risk to the country debt – a potential default on our government debt,” Pillay said.

“The implications of all of this was that we were running the risk of collapsing the entire economic system of our country.”

Pillay told the commission that the appointment of Sean Maritz as Eskom’s interim chief executive in the midst of this crisis was “a total shock to the organisation”.

Maritz was appointed to the position in October 2017 and was implicated in an alleged kickback scandal for his role in signing off on a questionable R400-million payment from Eskom to a Hong Kong bank account, against all legal advice. The payment was apparently made to secure the $1.5-billion loan from Huarong.

Pillay said in this period the Eskom board and Maritz were playing “Russian roulette with the South African economy”.

At the time, the looming ANC elective conference became the political focus of the utility, Pillay told the commission. According to Pillay, the outcome of the conference spelled trouble for the sitting Eskom board, as a change in leadership could result in a clean-up at the utility.

The current Eskom board was appointed in January 2018.

During his testimony before the commission, Eskom board chair Jabu Mabuza outlined the various disciplinary steps taken by the board against those implicated in allegations of state capture.

Eskom had become the “main theatre” of state capture, Mabuza said.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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