Verbal sparks fly and ‘nice’ men named at Eskom hearing

Eskom CEO Brian Molefe Picture: RAYMOMD PRESTON Sunday Times.
Eskom CEO Brian Molefe

Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe yesterday described President Jacob Zuma as a “nice old man” and said Finance Minister Gordhan was the “right person for the job he is doing”.

Molefe was speaking in parliament while being grilled by MPs about tensions that have arisen between the Treasury, Eskom and the Department of Public Enterprises regarding coal supply contracts with Gupta-owned enterprise Tegeta.

The Treasury said on Monday that Eskom had been attempting to block an investigation of coal contracts.

Tegeta was awarded a contract to supply coal to Eskom for which the parastatal made large up-front payments. Questions have also been raised about the quality of the coal supplied.

But Molefe, in parliament to present Eskom’s annual report, told the committee there had been no move to block the information.

It had been delivered to the national Treasury yesterday after Minister Lynne Brown intervened.

On the contract, Molefe said it seemed as if the objection was not about the substance of the transaction but that Eskom should not have done business with Tegeta at all.

Molefe said the issue of the sub-standard coal had no basis as the coal, marked as sub-standard by employees who had since been suspended, had been given the all-clear by the SA Bureau of Standards.

The committee also heard that an up-front payment had been made because at the time that Eskom was urgently looking for coal, Tegeta had indicated that it would have to open up a new coal seam to supply it, and would need payment in advance.

But this payment had also allowed Eskom to negotiate a 3% discount on the coal.

Molefe said there was no legal reason for Eskom not to do business or to blacklist Tegeta.

“So I am being labelled as a Gupta person because I won’t break the laws of this country. Perhaps I am captured but I am captured by the constitution,” Molefe said.

He described Gordhan as a man of “immense integrity” and said he was the “right person for the job”.

DA MP Natasha Mazzone asked both Molefe and Eskom board chairman Professor Ben Ngubane whether they had had close relationships with the family or held meetings with them before their appointments at Eskom.

Ngubane said he took strong exception to any such insinuations.

“Stop believing the lies told by other people about us,” Ngubane said.

Molefe was more jovial. “I don’t see anything wrong with them [the Guptas]– they’re nice people.”

He listed other “nice” people he had met as Jonathan Oppenheimer, Johan Rupert and President Jacob Zuma, whom he described as a “nice old man”.

However, Molefe said, this did not mean he had been “captured” and he would not deny knowing the Guptas.

“What do people want me to say? That I never met them, I hate them and, in fact, tomorrow I am going to disconnect their electricity?”

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