Parliament’s inquiry into the alleged capture of Eskom has adjourned for the year‚ with MPs saying attacks on them have only served to make them stronger.
The MPs have also said they will not allow “Gupta tantrums” to disrupt their efforts to uncover corruption and financial mismanagement at the power utility.
Their strong stand came after Ajay Gupta and his family had written to the public enterprises committee conducting the inquiry‚ dictating terms of engagement between them and the oversight body.
The parliamentary committee has been attacked by political figures seen as Gupta supporters‚ such as the Black First Land First movement‚ as well as Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown‚ who has likened it to a kangaroo court.
Some ANC MPs, seen as supporters of President Jacob Zuma, have tried to stop the inquiry from going ahead.
ANC MP and acting inquiry chairwoman Zukiswa Rantho and DA MP Natasha Mazzone have received death threats over their work in the inquiry, while evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara has allegedly been offered a bribe by State Security Minister Bongani Bongo.
Bongo was apparently doing so on the instructions of acting Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza. Khoza has denied the allegation. Wrapping up the proceedings ahead of the festive season break‚ Rantho said MPs across the political spectrum had done sterling work in the last six months in exposing the extent of the rot at Eskom.
She said they were likely to resume the inquiry in the middle of next month and had resolved to subpoena Public Enterprises Deputy Minister Ben Martins after he snubbed the inquiry yesterday.
Martins said in a letter that his written submission to the committee sufficed and he therefore saw no reason to present himself for interrogation by MPs.
Martins has objected to the fact that he has, so far, not been given an opportunity to rebut the allegations made by suspended Eskom head of legal and compliance Suzanne Daniels that he was present at a meeting in July with Ajay Gupta and Gupta associate Salim Essa.
MPs were outraged by his stance.
Mazzone said the time for “niceties” was over and that Martins had made an unfortunate blunder in going up against a constitutionally mandated committee.
ANC MP Zukile Luyenge said Martins was undermining parliament and should be subpoenaed.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh said Martins protested too much.
He and Economic Freedom Party MP Marshall Dlamini strongly supported a subpoena being issued to Martins.
Rantho said: “Those who see this process as undermining them‚ I just want to say we are serving the country.
“With the attacks we’ve had as [members of] the committee‚ I think those attacks have made us stronger and we now know exactly how to focus.
“I have also learnt the hard way.” The committee has taken a decision to summon Ajay Gupta and other members of his family implicated in the Eskom capture.
The Guptas sent two separate letters to the committee – one from Ajay and the other from the entire family – in which they ask parliament to engage them via written questions‚ and to also give them 10 days’ notice if they have to appear before the hearing‚ among other demands.
In his letter‚ Ajay has denied being at a meeting with Martins and Daniels at which they plotted to lobby employees in the Gauteng North High Court to delay the case related to the employment of former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe.
ANC MP Mondli Gungubele was more scathing in reaction to the letters from the Guptas‚ saying they amounted to nothing but tantrums that should not be entertained by parliament.
“If they want to talk to us‚ let’s arrange that they come and sit here and answer questions‚” Gungubele said.
“There must be no one who has the privilege of talking to us through their letters that are disruptive.
“We don’t want to spend [ time] dealing with the tantrums of Gupta‚ because these are just tantrums, as far as I’m concerned.
“I think these chaps have had it nice here in South Africa.”
In his second day of grilling by the committee‚ Khoza conceded the Eskom board had performed dismally.
He gave the board a performance score of three out of 10.