/ 17 May 2023

Eskom load-shedding a second phase of state capture, says Gordhan

Pravin Gordhan 0825 Dv
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday suggested the problems at Eskom were a result of a second phase of state capture gripping the country, and said “politicking” would not solve corruption in South Africa.

Addressing parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on the problems at the state power utility, which is implementing relentless rolling blackouts due to generating constraints, Gordhan said there was no doubt “that there is a link between — past and present — corruption, sabotage and load-shedding”.

He said South Africa was in the midst of “state capture two” and that while state capture one “has been concluded, and although many of us have to face the consequences of that, state capture two in different forms, and on a smaller scale — perhaps even a significant amount of money is being lost — is very much at play”.

“I want to once again indicate that corruption is not going to be eliminated or minimised by engaging in what one might call politicking. It requires boldness, it requires courage, it requires a principled approach in terms of opposition to corruption,” Gordhan said.

The minister’s appearance before Scopa comes a week after former Eskom chairperson Malegapuru Makgoba told the same committee that it was the public enterprises minister’s idea that the utility should conduct intelligence gathering to combat corruption.

Makgoba said he believed the police were “asleep” as far as sabotage and corruption at Eskom were concerned, and only “woke up” after former chief executive André de Ruyter initiated a privately funded intelligence-driven operation.

In his introductory remarks to the committee on Wednesday, Gordhan said the debate around Eskom had resulted in “big political narratives, character assassinations, and all sorts of things being said about individuals or a collective of individuals or organisations”.

Alluding to next year’s general election, he said committee meetings over the past few weeks made it clear that “the governing party is under attack, and, of course, it suits the purposes of others”.

The Scopa hearings have included an appearance by De Ruyter, as well as the head of the Directorate for Priority Crimes Investigation (the Hawks), General Godfrey Lebeya, who last week said the former Eskom boss had failed to disclose information about corruption afflicting the company.

De Ruyter said he did inform authorities — including Gordhan — about the information he gathered after initiating an investigation.

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian, De Ruyter said he had told the police far more of what emerged from the intelligence work done by the private firm of former police commissioner George Fivaz than he had mentioned in an interview with television journalist Annika Larsen in February.

As Scopa prepared to start questioning Gordhan on Wednesday, its chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa indicated that the committee would “in due course” also meet with Sydney Mufamadi, the national security adviser to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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