News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
4 minute read
6 Dec 2017
4:45 pm

Eskom inquiry adjourns on dramatic note with speculated arrest, letters and supboena

Gosebo Mathope

Rantho confirmed having spoken to the Hawks officials present in the room this morning, and said they expressed a request to cooperate on criminal charges aspect of the inquiry.

Pravin Gordhan warned that soon there will be no government money left for bailouts.

The public enterprises portfolio committee inquiry into malfeasance at Eskom was adjourned to the middle of January 2018 earlier today. But not before the committee were confronted by letters and the Hawks officials.

First, on Tuesday the committee read one of two unsigned letters from two different law firms purporting to be representing one of the Gupta brothers, Ajay. Today, when members got down to the business of grilling the chairperson at Eskom, Zithemebele Khosa, word got around of the presence of Hawks officials in the room.

This led to speculation from the media and some committee members that committee chairperson, ANC MP Zukiswa Rantho, was facing arrest by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Rantho this afternoon told The Citizen the presence of Hawks officials was not unusual, but what had startled her was their approach.

Zukiswa Rantho. Picture: Facebook

Zukiswa Rantho. Picture: Facebook

The second letter was written by another firm of lawyers on November 30, and though unread at the committee stated the same contents as the one read earlier during the week. The third letter was written by public enterprises deputy minister declining an invitation to appear before the committee. Outraged MPs resolved to subpoena him, and made it clear his conduct was akin to holding the committee in contempt.

Attachments included in Pilane Attorneys letter of Tuesday included a copy of a page of Ajay Gupta’s passport indicating that he was in India between July 23 and July 31, 2017. The lawyers also attached a screenshot from a YouTube video link meant to show the Guptas were at a religious festival on July 29. Ajay described Suzanne Daniels’ claims as “malicious” and threatened to report her to the police and speaker of parliament Baleka Mbete.

The tone of the letters, while neither collegiate nor combative, urged the committee members to exercise “extreme caution”. Committee members from different political parties didn’t take kindly to this gesture by the Guptas. ANC MP Zukile Luyenge reminded committee members that the Guptas were still expected to make a submission to the inquiry. “We want them to be here,” he said.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) MP Steve Swart said the Gupta family should not attempt through their lawyers to dictate the committee’s work. He was supported by EFF MP Marshall Dlamini, who said the Guptas were not entitled to any special treatment.

ANC MP Mondli Gungubele said the letters were merely an attempt to disrupt the committee and divert it from its work. Rantho said the letters would be sent to the legal unit for “processing” as Parliamentary protocol is strict on written communication to the legislation-making body requesting a signature at all times.

The committee eventually agreed that Ajay Gupta, as the person on whose behalf the letters were written, would be “invited” to appear before the committee on 16 January 2018.

Rantho explained that this would be so, as the committee would also write to Chair of Chairpersons in parliament, Cedric Frolick, and Mbete, requesting the committee resumes its work in the middle of January. This will be two weeks before committee work and three weeks before the State of the Nation address.

With regards to the Hawks presence during the committee, Rantho said upon hearing that there were Hawks officials in the room, an assistant secretary to the committee approached them and asked why they were there.

It turned out they had walked out of an aborted Scopa meeting, where a Transnet delegation didn’t pitch to account for various dodgy contracts, and thought they would speak to her about criminal charges to be pursued after the inquiry.

Ajay and Atul Gupta, and Duduzane Zuma. Picture: Gallo Images

Ajay and Atul Gupta, and Duduzane Zuma. Picture: Gallo Images

“They said they would like to cooperate with us. It’s the approach that terrified me. They said to the assistant secretary they are the Hawks and they are looking for the chairperson and her contact details. They simply could have written a letter to the committee, and we would have responded,” Rantho said.

Letter from Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins declining to testify before #EskomInquiry . He will now be subpoenaed @eNCA

Two letters ssent to #EskomInquiry from Ajay Gupta and #Gupta family. No electronic signatures. Asking to be called to testify.

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