Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Ramaphosa denies claims he influenced decisions at Eskom to favour Glencore

Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko had made allegations about Ramaphosa’s association with Optimum Coal Mine, which was then owned by Glencore before the Guptas took over.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday dismissed allegations that he improperly influenced decisions at Eskom in favour of Optimum Coal Mine (OCM) during his tenure as the head of the parastatal’s technical war room.

“I had no interest in, nor any opportunity to, influence Eskom’s decision-making process in matters pertaining to Optimum,” Ramaphosa said in his opening statement to the Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

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This follows testimony before the commission by Eskom’s disgraced former executives – Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko – who made allegations about Ramaphosa’s association with the mining company, which was then owned by Glencore before the Guptas took over Optimum Coal Mine.

Prior to his appointment as the country’s deputy president in 2014, Ramaphosa acquired 9.64% shareholding in Optimum Coal Holdings and became a non-executive chairperson of its board.

Ramaphosa reiterated to the commission that in June 2013, he resigned as a director of Optimum Coal Holdings.

He said in May 2014, he disposed of his shareholding in the company ahead of his appointment as deputy president by former president Jacob Zuma.

“I had no further involvement or interest in Optimum after that point,” he said.

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Ramaphosa said his role as the chair of the technical war room was an oversight role and its day-to-day direction was the responsibility of deputy ministers of relevant departments.

He said his dealings with Eskom, as well as the chair of the inter-ministerial committee on resolving the country’s energy challenges, had nothing to do with procurement or coal contracts.

“And even if by some imagination, I would have rescued myself immediately because conflict of interest, in my world, is something that that either needs to be declared or avoided,” Ramaphosa said.

The allegation in my view falls flat because of the principles that I uphold as well as the various actions I had taken.

The president also denied that he interfered at Eskom to ensure that Koko was dismissed from the utility in January 2018.

“Mr Koko contends that his removal was an instance of unlawful interference in Eskom’s affairs, executive overreach and state capture.

“The suggestion that government cannot lawfully intervene in Eskom’s affairs – even to avert a crisis – is completely incorrect.”

Ramaphosa also said Koko’s removal was not intended to achieve corrupt ends or to somehow capture Eskom.

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