Zondo inquiry zeroes in on Eskom’s Gupta links

Last week the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, heard evidence of how the utility allegedly supported the Guptas’ mining interests. (Paul Botes/M&G)

Last week the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, heard evidence of how the utility allegedly supported the Guptas’ mining interests. (Paul Botes/M&G)

More details on Eskom’s Gupta linked coal contracts are expected to emerge on Tuesday as two more witnesses from the power utility take the stand.

Snehal Nagar and Gert Opperman from Eskom’s primary energy division will testify at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday. It is expected that their evidence will deal with the controversial Optimum coal mine deal.

Last week the commission, chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, heard evidence of how the utility allegedly supported the Guptas’ mining interests when it seemingly backed their 2016 acquisition of Optimum coal mine from mining giant Glencore.

Glencore executive Clinton Ephron detailed the events that led to Optimum going into business rescue, ultimately making the mine easy pickings for the Saxonwold family.

Eskom allegedly financially crippled Optimum, which was the primary supplier of coal to the utility’s Hendrina power station, by subjecting the mine to more than R2-billion in penalties for delivering what it said was poor-quality coal, and by refusing to pay for coal until the penalties had been settled.

It is expected that Nagar and Opperman’s evidence will deal with the origin of these penalties against Glencore and how they were calculated.

National Treasury’s damning report on alleged corruption at Eskom found that the power utility’s management prejudiced Glencore by refusing to sign a negotiated coal contract, giving an advantage to Oakbay to acquire all assets in its Optimum coal mine.

According to the report, former Eskom executive Matshela Koko paved the way for the Gupta family’s acquisition of the mine.

The penalties levied against the mine under Glencore were allegedly radically reduced by Eskom once the Guptas took over.

Nagar’s testimony is also expected to deal with how the acquisition was helped along by a R659-million prepayment to Oakbay from Eskom. The prepayment by the power utility, which was made just three days after a late-night special board tender committee resolution to pay it, helped the Guptas with their mine.

Without that resolution the infamous Gupta family, which had been denied loans by banks just hours before, would have missed the deadline to deposit the R2.1-billion required to conclude the transaction.

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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. Read more from Sarah Smit

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