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Eskom a victim of ‘naked lies’ - Ngubane

May 19 2017 12:14
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane labelled former mines minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi a “barefaced” liar and said Eskom “is the biggest victim of unyielding innuendo and naked lies”.

READ: Molefe - Resigned, retired, retrenched, retained … which is it?

Lamenting the narrative about Eskom, Ngubane declared in a statement on Friday: “It has become very difficult, if not totally impossible, to separate the truth from wanton fiction. Eskom is the biggest victim of unyielding innuendo and naked lies.”

After the jubilant song and dance at Megawatt Park when reinstated Eskom CEO Brian Molefe walked through the doors on Monday, fresh allegations surfaced stemming from the public protector’s State of Capture report that focused on the Guptas’ acquisition of Optimum coal mine.

Even before Molefe walked through the doors on Monday, there was a plethora of calls for the reversal of his reappointment, for the Eskom board to be dissolved and for an inquiry to be launched into the state of affairs of the embattled state-owned company.

Ngubane - who was seen calmly eating lunch with other energy executives and walking about the exhibition hall at the African Utility Week in Cape Town this week - returned to Johannesburg to begin the major battle of defending the integrity of Eskom. The power utility faces:

  • The Democratic Alliance's court application to urgently stop Molefe from getting any financial benefits from Eskom, and to reverse his reappointment.
  • The request from the African National Congress for Parliament to deal with the matter and reverse the decision, while Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown is in talks with President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to resolve the matter.

Then there are the allegations linked to the State of Capture report.

  • Eskom may be pressured to prove its claim that it did not pay Trillian any money, after amaBhungane reported this week that it had proof Trillian invoiced Eskom for about R419m between April and December 2016. The State of Capture report said Trillian provided money to Gupta-owned Tegeta to buy Optimum coal mine. The allegation is that Eskom paid Trillian to facilitate the sale, under the cover that it was paying for consulting services. Eskom and Trillian deny the allegations.
  • The other amaBhungane report quotes Ramatlhodi saying that in 2015 Ngubane and Molefe pressured him to revoke the mining licence of Glencore, the company that owned Optimum at the time. He believes President Jacob Zuma was involved – his son has shares in Tegeta – as he was fired shortly after refusing to budge on the matter.

Ngubane on Friday hit back at the allegations, saying that “the barefaced lies by … Ramatlhodi could only be sustained by unsuspecting or decidedly biased minds”.

“It is absolutely implausible to suggest that a sitting, senior minister could have been bullied by the officials of a state entity,” he said in an Eskom statement. “One would have to be extremely biased against Eskom to even remotely consider these allegations to be true, given their ridiculous nature.”

Ngubane said that at the time Ramatlhodi said he suspended Glencore Optimum’s licence because it did not conduct retrenchments properly. “At no point did he allude to us being the reason thereof,” he said.

“But he has suddenly decided to self-shame by contradicting himself with his current public statements. He has shamelessly suggested that the licence suspension was not based on the manner in which Glencore handled the retrenchments, as widely quoted in the media,” Ngubane said.

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