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Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has deflected back to Eskom allegations that the utility had slashed the R2.1billion it was supposed to recover from Tegeta Exploration and Resources to R500million.

When Tegeta, a company owned by the Gutpa family and President Jacob Zuma’s son, Duduzane, acquired Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore in April 2016, Eskom had imposed the R2.1bn fine on Optimum for poor quality coal. Tegeta supplies coal to Eskom’s Arnot power station. It has since emerged that Eskom and Glencore have reached an agreement.

Brown would not respond to allegations that Eskom and Tegeta had slashed the fine to R500m. “I am afraid I do not run Eskom,” she said, referring the questions to Eskom legal and compliance acting head Suzanne Daniels.

Daniels confirmed that Eskom and Tegeta had concluded an arbitration process.

“There was an agreement entered into,” Daniels said. But she refused to disclose the details of the agreement, citing a confidentiality clause. The settlement of the fine marks a change of attitude because the power utility, through former chief executive Brian Molefe, was previously adamant that the penalty had to be settled.

Responding to a question about the investigation into former chief executive Matshela Koko, Brown said she was waiting for the board to act on the matter and has had the report for a week.

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The Eskom board earlier this year enlisted the services law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr to conduct a forensic and legal investigation following allegations that Koko’s stepdaughter scored contracts worth R1bn from the parastatal.

“The board will tell me what they intend to do. It is an investigation by the board. It has to write to me to tell me what action they are taking. The board will make a decision on whether it will be open. I want to deal with this matter as speedily as we can. The board must write to me and tell me what they want to do and I will respond to the board. Then we will respond in the public space.

“The matter is in the public interest. I do not want to give you a half-baked story here,” she said.

Speaking shortly after Eskom’s general meeting, Brown announced four new members of the Eskom board. They are Pulane Molokwane, Simphiwe Dingaan, Banothile Makhubela and Sathiaseelan Gounden.

Brown said she had reappointed Khoza, Pat Naidoo and Giovanni Leonardi to the board. She has, however, not reappointed Chwayita Mabude.

Brown said the new board members had gone through an extensive selection process. She said after receiving the names for the board positions, the Department of Public Enterprises drew up a shortlist of the best qualified candidates.

Shortish list

“They then bring me a shortish list about 15 or 20 names. Out of that, we then put the matrix of the criteria. We then put together a shortlist that goes to the ANC deployment committee and after that it goes to the economic cluster in the cabinet and then it goes to the cabinet,” she said.

Brown said the cabinet was yet to approve the names of the interim board members. It had taken long to appoint Johnny Dladla as acting chief executive because of the complex nature of the selection process.

Many of the Eskom executives had applied for the position before Molefe made a brief but controversial return.

After Molefe’s latest departure from the utility at the end of last month, Brown said she would announce an interim chief executive within 48 hours.

“I wanted to give South Africa somebody who was not conflicted by having applied for the job and that has not been named in any way in any newspaper or anything like that. I think I have made a very good choice. I also wanted somebody who could also run a company,” Brown said.

Commenting on the resignation of former Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane and the reasons for him leaving, Brown said: “Ngubane said his reasons were personal.”

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