Zola Tsotsi reveals Zuma's meddeling in Eskom suspensions
On Wednesday, Former Eskom chairman, Zola Tsotsi, gave an astonishing testimony describing how President Jacob Zuma and his close friend, Ex-South African Airways (SAA) chairwoman Dudu Myeni, were involved in the suspension of three senior Eskom executives.
He gave testimony before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture which is being conducted by the portfolio committee of public enterprises.
Tsotsi was chairman between June 2011 and March 2015 and his testimony related to the suspensions of the then acting CEO Tshediso Matona, group executive for capital Dan Marokane and group executive for commercial Matshela Koko. Tsotsi also claims that Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, gave instruction to suspend financial director, Tsholofelo Molefe, soon after.
Tony Gupta was also revealed to be involved in the affairs of Eskom.
Tsotsi said he felt “sinister clouds” gathering back in February 2015 after he was approached by Gupta who complained that Tsotsi was “not helping us with anything. We are the ones who put you in the position you are in. We are the ones who can take you out.”
He then described how he received a call from Zuma, on the eve of the first meeting of the new board appointed in December 2014. “Zuma informed me that the board meeting will not be taking place and that the acting director general [of public enterprises] will call me to ask me to postpone me. Shortly thereafter I received a call from the acting director-general to say that the minister had asked for the meeting to be postponed.
“Hardly a week later I was called by Dudu Myeni. She said that I should avail myself for an audience with the president.
“On or about 7 March 2015 I arrived at the Durban presidential residence and was met by Dudu Myeni, her son Thalente and a certain Mr Nick Lennell [Linnell] who was introduced to me as a lawyer.”
It was at this meeting that Myeni outlined Eskom’s financial stress and poor technical performance. She insisted that an inquiry into the company be instituted and that Matona, Marokane and Koko must be suspended while the inquiry was underway.
Tsotsi continued, “I found this matter altogether shocking and proceeded to question the need for suspending these executives as I saw this as a recipe for inducing instability in the company.” He and Myeni argued and she insisted that an inquiry would be held into the performance of the executives while they were under suspension.
When Zuma arrived, Myeni explained what they were discussing and said that Linnell would draft a resolution for Tsotsi to give to the board, which detailed the reason for the inquiry.
At a board meeting on 9 March 2015, the proposed resolution was presented. Two days later a meeting was held with Brown, who supported the suspensions, to further discuss the matter.
Another meeting followed, with the people and governance committee where the director, Ben Ngubane, on the instruction of Brown suggested Molefe should be added to the suspension list. The suspensions resulted in a downgrade of Eskom’s credit rating.
“The second astonishing event had to do with the appointment of the executives who had to act for those suspended. Hardly an hour after the end of the board meeting which decided on the suspensions Ms Chwayita Mabude was announcing the names of the people and governance committee of the executives who were going to act. Once again Dr Ngubane said these names came from the minister.
“Hardly a week went by and I was faced with having to defend myself against accusations from several board members that I was not consulting the board in the preparatory work on the inquiry,” Tsotsi continued.
“The board engaged a law firm to trump up charges against me that I am not fit to be a director of the company. On March 23 in the dead of night, I was given an ultimatum by the board to resign or be charged with lack of fitness to be a director. I resigned under duress.
“The lapses in good corporate governance that have been occasioned by poor decision-making have opened up the company to exploitation by unscrupulous rent seekers.
“I regret to say that despite numerous requests Eskom did not avail me of a single document.”
Shortly afterwards, a strong objection by committee members to the non-availability of documents urged that they are subpoenaed and resolved that Eskom would have to give Tsotsi the documents he requested by 3 pm on Wednesday. Eskom chairman, Zethembe Khoza, was told to give the instruction to the relevant people in Eskom to provide the documents, to which he agreed.
Separately, Linnell confirmed in a statement that he was approached by Myeni in March 2015 to attend the meeting with Zuma and Tsotsi to discuss the inquiry into Eskom.
Ttosti concluded that corruption was a “scourge” and applauded the inquiry.
Watch the testimony here