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As it happened - Eskom acting chair grilled, Singh censured at #EskomInquiry

2017-12-05 09:39

Eskom's acting board chair Zethembe Khoza was questioned for almost three hours, while the power utility's suspended CFO Anoj Singh was criticised for 'undermining Parliament' on the second to last day of the Eskom inquiry for 2017.

Eskom CFO Anoj Singh. (Pic: Gallo Images)
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Last Updated at 06:20
05 Dec 20:28
The Eskom inquiry has wrapped up for the day. The committee will reconvene at 09:30 on Wednesday. 

05 Dec 18:45

Eskom's acting board chairperson Zethembe Khoza has denied the state power utility paid almost R600m in a prepurchase agreement to Gupta-linked firm Tegeta so that it could buy Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore.

Khoza was being quizzed by the inquiry's evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara about the payment made in mid-April 2016.

"I would like to hear your comment when I say the reason you bent backwards was to accommodate Tegeta to have money to pay the R600m" said Vanara.

"I am not aware of that, the only thing that came up as a crisis was security of coal,' replied Khoza. 

Khoza said that Eskom at the time needed to urgently secure coal to supply power plants before the onset of winter, and had in the past also made use of pre-purchase agreements to secure supplies. 

The pre-purchase agreement however gained controversy after claims that Tegeta used the money to help buy it buy Optimum. 

Business rescue

Business rescue practitioner Piers Marsden, for one, previously told the inquiry that he filed papers with the Hawks after watching a Carte Blanche episode in June 2016 that revealed that Eskom agreed to pay Tegeta a R586m prepayment for coal at the same time as Tegeta revealed to him that they were R600m short on their R2.15bn deal to buy Optimum.

“We believed the quantum and timing of that was something that required further investigation,” he said in early November.

Glencore agreed to sell its Optimum mine in December 2015, but the Guptas had battled to find the full amount to pay the company.

“Tegeta was supposed to pay Glencore on 13 April,” said Marsden.

“Two days before the sale was due, (former Oakbay CEO) Nazeem Howa phoned. I was advised that they were R600m short on the purchase agreement.”


05 Dec 17:28

Eskom's acting board chairperson Zethembe Khoza has told Parliament's inquiry into state capture that he only became aware of the full amount of former CEO Brian Molefe's R30m pension payout when the figure was leaked to the media. 

"I think [the pension payout] did not follow the right channel when it was submitted and approved," he said. "At no stage was the full amount approved at board level."

"Therefore we were not aware of the amount," said Khoza. 

In April 2017 the Sunday Times reported that Molefe, who either resigned or took early retirement from Eskom in November 2016, had been given a R30m pension payout. 

The payout was later cancelled by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, who said she was not aware of the amount. 

The inquiry's evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara asked Khoza how this was possible, as the board would have to write to Eskom's pension fund to tell them that Molefe had taken early retirement before the fund could process Molefe's retirement. 

"You needed a board's decision to accept or not accept a request for early retirement," he said. 


05 Dec 16:52

Acting Eskom board chairperson Zethembe Khoza has told Parliament's inquiry into state capture that the power utility's board understood that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was a permanent employee, and not a contract employee. 

"To my understanding he felt he was a permanent employee with a fixed tenure of five years," said Khoza.

He added that this was the understanding that was communicated to Eskom's board. 

The issue of whether Molefe was a permanent or contract employee has been a recurring question at Parliament's inquiry. 

It affects whether Molefe would be entitled to his R30m pension payout.  

Earlier in the day, Eskom's executive support manager Anton Minnaar also told the inquiry that Molefe was always a permanent employee of the power utility.

“It is clear in my view, that we appointed him as a permanent employee. We have never been advised differently,” said Minnaar. 


05 Dec 16:24
Acting Eskom board chairperson Zethembe Khoza has finished his prepared statement. Evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara will start asking questions after a five minute break. 

05 Dec 16:01
Acting Eskom board chairperson Zethembe Khoza reading from a prepared statement at Parliament's inquiry into Eskom. 

05 Dec 15:41

Acting Eskom board chairperson Zethembe Khoza has said the frequent turnover of high level staff at the power utility contributed to low morale. 

"There have been corporate governance challenges in Eskom over the years," he said. 

In the past 10 years the power utility has had 5 different chairpersons and 10 different chief executive officers. 

Khoza said this had contributed to instability and low morale. 

"A new board is about to be appointed and it will be the task of the board to appoint a new permanent chief executive officer," he said, adding that with the right leadership, Eskom could stabilize "from a governance perspective'.  


05 Dec 15:11

With Singh released, members of the Eskom board are now set to testify. Acting board chairperson Zethembe Khoza is up first.

Reading from a prepared statement, he is taking the committee through the history of Eskom, starting with the birth of the company some 100 years ago, touching on load shedding, coal supply and generation capacity. 


05 Dec 14:48

Committee lashes out at Singh

Controversial former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh was sharply criticised by Parliament's oversight committee on public enterprises on Tuesday, for not submitting documents to the committee on time. 

"I want you to register our disappointment," the committee's chair Daphne Rantho told Singh. 

She said he was given six months to prepare his documents. 

"You seem to have undermined the work of Parliament," said Rantho. 

Rantho said Singh only submitted a 400 page bundle of documents to the committee at 11pm on Monday night. 

"We are going to give you another date when you should come to the committee and come to account on money spent on Eskom," said Rantho. 

"We are therefore not going to continue with you today," said Rantho.

Singh, a former top Transnet and Eskom executive, was suspended by the power utility in late September, after being placed on special leave at the end of July. His exit followed mounting allegations that he was involved in irregularly awarding contracts to Gupta-linked businesses, while also receiving gifts and trips from the controversial family.

An investigative report by amaBhungane and Scorpio, co-published by Fin24 in early September, reported that the Gupta family had bankrolled six or seven luxury Dubai stays for Singh, and even "opened a shell company for Singh in a highly secretive United Arab Emirates jurisdiction".

In July, meanwhile, before he was placed on special leave, Singh denied ever taking bribes. He promised the media he would produce a "tell-all document" which he has not yet done. 

The DA's Natasha Mazzone said that Singh's conduct was "shameful". 

"We will not be stopped, we will not be halted, we will not take this as a clever legal move," said Mazzone. 

"We will see you in January," she said. 

She noted that Singh's legal team had been present at the inquiry from the start. 

'Singh and his buddies'

Mzingisi Dlamini of the EFF said the committee was not scared of what he termed "Singh and his buddies". 

"Those that he pays off at night R600m. We are going to go to them one by one - we are gong to start with him," he said, pointing at Singh. 

"You must pass that message to your buddies as well," he said. 

Other MP's expressed similar sentiments. 

Singh is expected to again appear before the committee in 2018. The first 2018 parliamentary term is scheduled to start on January 23 according to Parliament's latest calender. 


05 Dec 14:41
The committee is back from a lunch break. Proceedings have again started. 

05 Dec 13:26
Minnaar has now finished his testimony. The committee will take a break for lunch. The Eskom board is set to provide evidence later. 

05 Dec 13:04

The ANC's Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe has told Eskom's executive support manager Anton Minnaar that there should not have been any confusion about whether Molefe was on a permanent or non-permanent employee. 

She said that, as five-year contracts are the norm at metros throughout South Africa, Eskom should not have been confused about how to implement it.

"Any HR department will tell you what is involved in a five-year contract," she said. 

Minnaar was the first witness to give evidence before the oversight committee on public enterprises on Tuesday into the mismanagement of state funds at Eskom.

Minnaar earlier told the committee that he was of the view that Molefe had always been a permanent employee at the power utility. 

“It is clear in my view, that we appointed him as a permanent employee. We have never been advised differently,” he said. 

He said that, while Molefe had signed a fixed-term contract, he understood this as a permanent fixed term, and not a contract term. 

The issue is important, as it would affect whether Molefe was or wasn't entitled to a pension payout. 

Minnaar, however, said in his understanding the former CEO was a “permanent employee with a term”. 

Mnganga-Gcabashe, however, said this was not how five-year contracts were implemented throughout South Africa. 

Employees on fixed-term contracts were not understood to be permanent employees, she said.  

"I am clearly of the view that procedural things were followed correctly,' said Minnaar. 


05 Dec 12:48

Molefe's R30m pension payout was worthwhile 

Eskom executive support manager Anton Minnaar has told Parliament’s inquiry into state capture that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe R30m pension payout was worthwhile, as he helped defeat load shedding. 

Minnaar was the first witness to give evidence at the inquiry on Tuesday. 

Asked whether, in his view, he believed that Molefe should have been given a R30m payout after 18 months at the power utility, Minnaar said it depended on the performance of the individual. 

Minnaar said that Molefe managed to break the back of load shedding under his watch.  He said he was speaking in his personal capacity. 

"If he can stop load shedding, I will pay him," Minnaar said. 

The committee will later hear evidence from the Eskom board, and the power utility's controversial suspended chief financial officer Anoj Singh.

The question of Molefe's pension payout has been a recurring theme at the inquiry. 


05 Dec 12:15

Minnaar is now asked by the ACDP's Steve Swart whether it is "morally defensible" to pay Molefe R30m after 18 months service at Eskom. 

"I think yes," says Minnaar.

He says Eskom was advised by the pension fund that Molefe could qualify for this benefit. 

Swart asks whether there was a "keenness to assist" Molefe due to his alleged links to the controversial Gupta family. 

"Chairperson, I cannot get involved with any of the links with Mr Molefe," said Minnaar, but added he was one of the better Eskom chiefs. "I cannot make an opinion around that chair". 


05 Dec 12:07
Minnaar has said he does not have a copy of the initial full-term contract that Molefe signed. He told the committee that he only has a copy of the fixed-term contract that was signed in March 2016.  

05 Dec 11:58
In response to a question by DA MP Natasha Mazzone, Minnaar says he has not been "trained" to answer any of the questions. 

05 Dec 11:35

Molefe was permanent employee - Minnaar 

Eskom executive support manager Anton Minnaar has told Parliament’s inquiry into state capture that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was always a permanent employee of the power utility. 

Minnaar was giving evidence before the oversight committee on public enterprises on Tuesday into the mismanagement of state funds at Eskom.

“It is clear in my view, that we appointed him as a permanent employee. We have never been advised differently,” said Minnaar. 

On multiple occasions he reiterated that he was of the view that Molefe was never a contract worker at the power utility. 

“Even up to today I am very clear he is a permanent employee, he is not a contractor,” he said. 

The committee's evidence leader advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, however, put it to Minnaar that it was “common knowledge” that Molefe was on a fixed-term contract. 

“You are the first one from Eskom to maintain that somebody on a fixed-term contract is regarded as a permanent employee,” said Vanara. 

The issue is important, as it would affect whether Molefe was or wasn't entitled to a pension payout. 

Minnaar, however, said in his understanding the former CEO was a “permanent employee with a term”. 

He said that Molefe was the first top executive at Eskom to have a permanent contract with a fixed-term, and added it was "not best practice".

Earlier in the inquiry, however, Eskom’s Pension and Provident Fund ‘s CEO Sibusiso Luthuli said Molefe should never have been a member of the pension fund as he was on a five-year fixed term contract.

Only permanent employees are allowed to be members, said Luthuli.

Molefe was initially employed at the power utility as a permanent employee after leaving Transnet. But this was later changed to a five-year fixed-term contract, backdated to October 1, 2015. 

But Minaar said this didn't necessarily mean that he was a contract worker. 

He said this was because when Molefe changed from a permanent employee to a fixed-term employee, he did not renegotiate his benefits. 

“If a person is on a five-year term he has to renegotiate his entire package,” argued Minnaar. 

Molefe also maintains that he was always a permament employee of the power utility. 

Minnaar also said the only copy of a signed employment contract between Molefe and Eskom that he has was dated March 2016. 

The committee will later hear evidence from the Eskom board, and the power utility's controversial suspended chief financial officer Anoj Singh.

Minnaar said that Molefe applied for early retirement, and did not resign. The question of whether he voluntarily stepped down or applied for early retirement has been under examination during the inquiry. "I know there are different opinions about it, but that is my view," he added. 


05 Dec 10:30
After a ten minute break Eskom executive support manager Anton Minnaar is restarting his testimony. MP's now have copies of his notes. He is running through a history of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe's employment at the power utility. 

05 Dec 09:55
Eskom executive support manager Anton Minnaar is first to give evidence on former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe's controversial pension payout. MP's say he is talking too quickly. The proceedings have now paused for 10 minutes to that photocopies can be made. 

05 Dec 09:40

All eyes will be on the testimony provided by Eskom's former chief financial officer Anoj Singh, who may appear before Parliament's oversight committee on public enterprises on Tuesday or Wednesday. 

In addition to Singh, various member's of Eskom's board are set to testify. 

Singh, a former top Transnet and Eskom executive, was suspended by the power utility in late September, after being placed on special leave at the end of July. 

His exit followed mounting allegations that he was involved in irregularly awarding contracts to Gupta-linked businesses, while also receiving gifts and trips from the controversial family.

An investigative report by amaBhungane and Scorpio, co-published by Fin24 in early September, reported that the Gupta family had bankrolled six or seven luxury Dubai stays for Singh, and even "opened a shell company for Singh in a highly secretive United Arab Emirates jurisdiction".

In July, meanwhile, before he was placed on special leave, Singh denied ever taking bribes. He promised the media he would produce a "tell-all document" which he has not yet done. 



05 Dec 09:40

Parliament's oversight committee on public enterprises will on Tuesday continue its inquiry into the mismanagement of state funds at Eskom, which has become better known as the 'state capture inquiry'.

The committee is set to hear evidence from both the Eskom board and the power utility's controversial suspended chief financial officer Anoj Singh.

The inquiry is set to start at 09:30 in the Old Assembly Chamber. And if past committee sessions are any indication, it may continue late into the night. 


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