President Cyril Ramaphosa and his predecessor, Jacob Zuma, were aware of Brian Molefe’s transfer from Transnet to Eskom in 2015.
The commission of inquiry into state capture on Tuesday continued hearing the evidence of former Eskom chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane, who was the power utility’s acting chairperson at the time of Molefe’s secondment.
He told commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Molefe’s appointment was discussed with Zuma and Ramaphosa, who was the country’s deputy president at the time.
Ngubane said Molefe was appointed because there was a leadership vacuum at Eskom after the board’s appointment in December 2014.
According to Ngubane, then public enterprises minister Lynne Brown announced that she had decided to second Molefe to Eskom a few months after she appointed the board.
He said that it was Brown who suggested that the Eskom board should consider Molefe and that the power utility’s board must write to Transnet to consider releasing Molefe.
Brown had told the commission that the Eskom and Transnet boards had negotiated discreetly to facilitate Molefe’s secondment and that of the entities’ former chief financial officer, Anoj Singh.
“We approached the minister to present our problem in terms of the leadership of the organisation,” Ngubane testified, adding that Molefe had done a good job at Transnet and the Public Investment Corporation, where he was also chief executive.
Ngubane also defended Eskom’s business dealings with then Gupta-owned Optimum Coal Mine, which the fugitive and controversial family bought from mining giant Glencore.
He said Glencore benefited from billions at the expense of Eskom when the price of coal skyrocketed and increased from R150 to R513 overnight.
Ngubane said Glencore could have used its reserves to save Optimum Coal Mine, which has been placed under business rescue.
“They are crooks, they think we are stupid Africans who are there for the taking,” he said.
Justice Zondo asked: “How did you sign an agreement that tied you to the same price? How did you allow whoever signed on your behalf? How did you sign such a contract?”
Ngubane said Eskom’s price was an old one and that it refused to renegotiate price.
He also accused Glencore of delivering sub-standard coal to Eskom and shipping the best coal overseas hence the company was penalised by the power utility.
Ngubane said Glencore had bought companies that were given contracts illegally during the apartheid era.
The former SABC chairperson and Cabinet minister said when he took over as acting Eskom chairperson in 2015 the power utility was facing a very tumultuous situation.
He said four executives – former acting chief executives Matshela Koko and Tshediso Matona, as well as finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and group capital executive Dan Marokane – had been suspended in March 2015, while former chairperson Zola Tsotsi resigned as chairperson in the same month.
Tsotsi has previously apologised for the suspension of the four executives as their careers suffered as a result of the move.
Brown had accused Tsotsi of interfering in management after receiving complaints from managers and board members and she asked him to refrain from doing this or else she would have to find someone else for the job.
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