Johannesburg - Eskom Chairman Ben Ngubane on Friday refuted allegations of attempts of "undue influence" on former Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi "The barefaced lies by former Mineral Resources Ngoako Ramatlhodi could only be sustained by unsuspecting or decidedly biased minds," said Ngubane in response to widespread reports that he and Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe "pressured" the then minerals minister to suspend all the mining rights held by Glencore.
On Tuesday, Ramatlhodi said he was prepared to tell a judicial inquiry that Molefe and Ngubane had tried to force him to suspend mining company Glencore's licences at the time the country was going through loadshedding. Ramatlhodi, whose damning revelations coincided with the reinstatement of Molefe as Eskom chief executive after a short stint as an MP, said President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane was the messenger used by the Gupta family to try to arrange a meeting with him.
Ramatlhodi said he held a meeting with Molefe in 2015, where they discussed Glencore's R2 billion penalty for supplying Eskom with substandard coal. At the second meeting, Molefe and Ngubane reportedly insisted Ramatlhodi suspend all Glencore licences pending the payment of the R2bn fine. "I said I'm not going to shut the mine," Ramatlhodi recounted.
The former minister, though, declined to say if he felt he was being pressured to suspend Glencore's licence to make way for Optimum, which at the time the Guptas were said to be planning to buy. But on Friday, Ngubane rejected the allegations, saying: "It is absolutely implausible to suggest that a sitting senior minister could have been bullied by the officials of a state entity.
One would have to be extremely biased against Eskom to even remotely consider these allegations to be true given their ridiculous nature." The Eskom board chairperson added: "Such allegations by a former senior minister with such a critical national mandate are not only absurd, but highlight his own perception of his incompetence." Ngubane said he wondered why Ramatlhodi failed to raise this purported violation at the "correct time" of its alleged occurrence.
"Did he approach the media at the time it alleged (sic) occurred? Did he report the matter to the police, if he did, what is his case number?" Ngubane asked in a lengthy statement in which he denied any wrongdoing. "Why has it only now become opportune to make these damaging allegations? One would have expected that a genuine moralist, which he claims to be, would have brought these serious allegations to the attention of the police and/or the media instantly.
"Genuine moralists do not hang their morality on convenience. This is evidently an opportune time for him to make the allegation and one can only wonder at his motive." Ngubane said even though Ramatlhodi's allegations "are unseemly delayed, they should at least be truthful ... unfortunately they are patently not".
"For instance, while in his previous position as minister, Ramatlhodi stated, according to the media reports, that 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," Ngubane proffered.
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"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.
"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."
- African News Agency (ANA)