Former Eskom board chairman Zola Tsotsi on Wednesday implicated President Jacob Zuma and his ally, former South African Airways board chairwoman Dudu Myeni, in interference in affairs at the state-owned power utility.
Tsotsi, testifying in the parliamentary inquiry into allegations of state capture at Eskom, explained that following the appointment of new board members in 2015, some disturbing events involving Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, Zuma, Myeni and one of the Gutpa brothers, had unfolded.
Chairman, you are not helping us with anything. We are the ones who put you in the position you are in.
First, he said he was called to a meeting with Brown before the state-of-the-nation address in 2015. The minister accused him of interfering with Eskom management following complaints from board members, to which he said he replied: “Minister, most board members hardly know what I look like, let alone not having worked with me yet. As for management, if scrutinising their decisions and behaviour and calling them to account constitutes interference with management, then I will happily continue doing so.”
He said the very same afternoon he was approached by Tony Gupta, who requested a meeting. According to Tsotsi, the Gupta brother had told him: “Chairman, you are 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!”
Tsotsi said the “coincidence” of the meetings with Brown and Gupta was not lost on him.
The new board was scheduled to meet on February 26, but the night before President Zuma called him directly.
“The president then informed me that the board meeting will not be taking place and that the acting DG [director-general of public enterprises] will call me to ask me to postpone it,” said Tsotsi. Shortly afterwards, the DG called him to tell him Brown wanted the meeting postponed, and that the she had not provided reasons for this.
Tsotsi then went on to implicate Myeni, saying a week after the board meeting was to take place she called him.
“She said that I should avail myself for an audience with the President, and declined to discuss any details over the phone.”
Tsotsi said he met with Myeni at the Durban presidential residence. She told him an inquiry into Eskom was to take place and that three executives – acting chief executive Tshediso Matona, group executive for group capital, Dan Marokane, and group executive for commercial Matshela Koko – were to be suspended.
Tsotsi said he found the meeting shocking and that he told Myeni the suspension of the executives was “a recipe for inducing instability in the company”, to which Myeni replied that the executive would not be accused of wrongdoing but shifted aside so the inquiry could “proceed unencumbered by their presence”. This was the position reported in the media when the three were suspended in 2015.
The president then entered the room, said Tsotsi, and inquired if he knew who the executives were who were to be suspended. Tsotsi said he resisted, but was told by Myeni that a certain Mr Nick Lennell “had assisted her with a similar situation at SAA”.
When the board convened on March 11, 2015, with Brown in attendance, the decision to suspend the three executives was taken. The next day he called a press conference announcing the inquiry and the suspension of the executives.
Tsotsi said that same afternoon he was to have the “most unpleasant and humiliating experience” in his position as board chairman.
“The head of Eskom Treasury informed me that our investors and lenders from across the world will be calling in to ask for an explanation of the actions of suspending the executives,” he told MPs.
“Indeed, I was on the line with around 52 individuals trying to defend what essentially was an indefensible position.”
Tsotsi said from here things went downhill.
“The board engaged a law firm to trump up charges against me that I am not fit to be a director of the company,” he said.
“On 23 March, 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.”
– African News Agency (ANA)