Johannesburg – Former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi on Tuesday made explosive allegations against the Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and board chairperson Ben Ngubane, accusing the two of attempting to pressurise him to blackmail resources giant Glencore.
This was in an attempt to help the Gupta family buy the company's Optimum coal mine, which supplied Eskom’s Hendrina power station.
According to a report by amaBhungane, Ramatlhodi alleged that Eskom board chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane and CEO Brian Molefe pressurised him to blackmail the company in order to ensure the Gupta family was able to buy Optimum.
amaBhungane is a non-profit organisation focused on investigative journalism.
At the time, Optimum was reportedly under business administration after Molefe refused to renegotiate the price of a long-term coal contract and reinstated a R2.17 billion penalty on Optimum for allegedly supplying "substandard coal".
When Ramatlhodi refused to give in to this demand, President Jacob Zuma fired him and replaced him with Mosebenzi Zwane.
In an interview with Xolani Gwala on 702, the former minister explained how the sequence of events unfolded.
“Eskom, at that point, was refusing to take coal from Glencore on the basis that the company owed Eskom R2 billion in penalties,” he said.
“I then intervened in the dispute in an attempt to resolve the matter; Molefe agreed to this.”
Ramatlhodi then explained that Ngubane insisted on joining the meeting, something he (Ramatlhodi) did not object to.
At this meeting, Ngubane and Molefe effectively demanded that Ramatlhodi use his power as minister to shut down Glencore, a demand the former minister said he refused to comply with.
“I was asked to shut down the company, right in the middle of power outages, and I refused.
“Ngubane insisted that, as minister, I had the power to do this but I told him I couldn’t do that as this would be utterly irresponsible”
That was the end of the discussion, according to Ramatlhodi.
Asked whether this discussion was linked with efforts by the Guptas to buy Optimum mine, Ramatlhodi said that he would not rule this possibility out.
On the issue that the same discussion was linked to Ramatlhodi’s firing by Zuma, the former minister said that “only the president can answer that”.
Responding to these allegations was board spokesperson Khulani Qoma who refuted the allegations.
“It makes absolutely no sense that a mere chairperson and CEO could put this much pressure on a minister in an effort to subordinate him to their will,” he said.
“This is a desperate allegation devoid of logic and all fair-minded citizens will find this impossible to believe.”