A former Eskom official has told the state capture inquiry that the power utility entered into a sponsorship contract with The New Age (TNA) newspaper’s business breakfasts without getting a final approval from the sponsorship committee.
Testifying before commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday, Eskom’s former divisional executive of corporate affairs, Chose Choeu, admitted that TNA’s request for sponsorship had never been presented to the committee nor was it assessed.
Choeu, who has since retired from the power utility, told the commission this was “very unusual”.
The second contract for sponsorship that was taken to the committee for approval was turned down.
“As we were working with TNA, issues, including taking our supplier to the lawyers, put a strain on the relationship. Parliamentary questions started appearing at the same time,” he said.
Choeu first told the commission that one of the challenges faced by the utility was load shedding.
“In 2010, one of the things that happened was that the type of normal maintenance that we would do was delayed and that caught up with us,” he said.
“We wanted to find a way to either supply more electricity or find a way to convince South Africans to reduce electricity.”
Eskom launched its 49M initiative in March 2011 to encourage citizens to cut their energy consumption. At the time, South Africa’s population stood at 49 million.
He said it had used all platforms – including TV channels, radio stations and cinemas – to educate South Africans about the initiative to reduce electricity.
Eskom also used the business breakfasts to get its message across.
However, although no analysis had been done on the link between investment and benefit, Choeu said TNA sponsorship yielded tangible returns on investments through airtime on SABC2.
The average coverage time for the breakfast event was 57 minutes.
Choeu added the 57 minutes was not all on Eskom.
Asked how much airtime Eskom was given to convey its message to the country, he said the utility was given time to speak but that would not be broadcasted.
Choeu is expected to continue with his testimony on Wednesday.