Business rescue practitioner Piers Marsden
CAPE TOWN - Business rescue practitioner Piers Marsden said that when Brian Molefe took over as acting chief, the company walked into a “hornets’ nest”. Marsden is currently before the Parliament’s public enterprises inquiry into state-owned entities.

Molefe was very hard on Glencore, who were the owners of Optimum coal mine in 2015. “We walked into a pretty difficult hornets’ nest,” he told Parliament’s inquiry. “It became quite clear that a transaction involving the contract with Glencore as a shareholder would not succeed.

“The hard stance Eskom took at the time stood up to commercial muster. It made commercial sense,” he said. “Where the picture gets murkier is regarding the facts that came out post the fact.”

Marsden said Optimum coal needed rescue when owned by Glencore mainly due to the R2.15 billion penalty that was imposed by Eskom. Mardens said he tried his best to negotiate with Eskom and tried to make the Optimum more operational.

Optimum essentially provided coal to Eskom’s Hendrina power plant. Marsden then said that when Tegeta (the Guptas) became owners of Optimum, Eskom decided to provide a 75% discount on the R2.15 billion fine.

Now the company only had to pay R500m in March 2017. The Guptas then decided to sell the coal mine to a Dubai businessman.

MP Steve Swart, from the African Christian Democratic Party ( ACDP) asked Marsden if Eskom had found a proposed settlement regarding the R2.15bn fine. Moreover Swart asked if Eskom gave Optimum a contract to provide Arnot power station with coal at an escalated price, would Optimum still need to be rescued.

“This was one of the options that we tabled to Eskom,” Marsden explained. “We were looking for any options to take to Eskom. We made a number of proposals for coal supplies. It was an option, but we were not able to conclude it.”