Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe, who is the target of a civil and criminal lawsuit, has implicated President Cyril Ramaphosa in the irregular contracts at Eskom during his tenure.
Molefe is one of the executives named in a R3.8-billion lawsuit by Eskom and the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) filed last year.
This lawsuit refers to the same acquisition of Optimum by the Gupta family following its acquisition by Glencore.
Eskom argued that the actions of these parties during the acquisition of Optimum Coal Holdings (OCH) Limited resulted in the power utility suffering R3.8 billion in losses, which it said it was legally obliged and morally burdened to recover, together with the interest thereon.
Speaking in a hearing at the Zondo Commission on Friday 15 January 2021, Molefe inferred that Ramaphosa had interfered with the irregular Glencore coal procurement contract and had contributed to the return of load-shedding.
Molefe accused Ramaphosa of exercising his political power to further his own financial ends and that of Glencore, in which Molefe said he had a 9.6% stake when assuming the role of Deputy President.
Glencore acquired a 70% stake in Optimum in 2012, with Ramaphosa acting as the BEE partner for the acquisition.
Molefe pointed out that when the Eskom war room was established in 2015, Ramaphosa served as the chairman.
“Ramaphosa was the de-facto chairman of Eskom”
“Mr Cyril Ramaphosa was the chairman of the war room,” Molefe said. “He was in fact the de-facto chairperson of Eskom.”
He noted that Ramaphosa had sold his shares in Glencore, but the deal had not gone through at the time when Molefe was appointed CEO of Eskom.
“At the time when I got to Eskom and he was Deputy President and chairman of the war room, the deal had not gone through,” Molefe said.
“It was awaiting Competition Commission approval. So I suspect there may have been conflicts.”
He also said that Ramaphosa’s war room was not about solving load-shedding and implied that its actions were related to potential interests by its members in contracts with Glencore.
“I quickly came to realise that the war room was not about load-shedding and turning Eskom around,” Molefe said.
“Something else was happening. Eskom senior managers were being distracted from fighting load-shedding by being made to attend endless meetings at which they were expected to give unending and meaningless reports.”
“If the war room had been doing its work diligently, it would have solved the load-shedding crisis before I arrived at Eskom,” he said.
“Load-shedding returned with Ramaphosa”
Molefe said that after President Jacob Zuma closed down the war room, his tenure as Eskom CEO resulted in the power utility solving the load-shedding problem.
“Under my leadership, and the leadership and technical expertise of people like Mr Koko, and other engineers, we defeated load-shedding on 8 August 2015 and we never had load-shedding again for three years after I had left Eskom,” Molefe said.
“Load-shedding came back to Eskom after Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, following the R1-billion Nasrec conference, was appointed President of the country.”
“After he was appointed President of the country, he, in turn, appointed the smooth-talking and dictatorial Pravin Gordhan as Minister of Public Enterprises,” he added.
Molefe said that Ramaphosa must have known what Glencore sought to achieve, as he was the chairperson of a company that was bought without due diligence.
“He was chairperson when the penalties were imposed. He was still chairperson of Optimum when the unlawful agreement that sought to increase the price of coal from R150 per ton was negotiated with certain members of Eskom staff in 2014,” Molefe said.
“To put it mildly, the situation made me sick. I found the behaviour of Glencore and Mr Cyril Ramaphosa to be revolting.”
He added that the government does not have the best interests of public enterprises at heart and has no plan for resolving the issues at companies like Eskom expediently.
“My suspicion, is that like the javelin, [public enterprises] will be thrown over the fence and caught at a later stage,” he said.