Cyril Ramaphosa was ’used’ to politically protect mining giant, state capture inquiry hears

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 16, 2021


Johannesburg - Former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe on Friday laid into President Cyril Ramaphosa and accused him of effectively being used by mining giant Glencore for political protection and to peddle his considerable influence.

Molefe told the commission of inquiry into state capture that Ramaphosa was aware of what Glencore wanted to achieve when it made him chairperson of Optimum Coal Mine (OCM) in 2012 after it acquired the company that it subsequently sold to the controversial fugitive Gupta family.

”Ramaphosa must have known about what Glencore sought to achieve; he was the chairperson of a company that was bought without a due diligence, he was chairperson when the penalties were imposed, he was still chairperson of OCM when the unlawful agreement that sought to increase the price of coal from R150 and set aside the penalties negotiated with certain members of Eskom staff in 2014,” Molefe testified.

He was referring to the R2 billion in penalties that Eskom issued to Glencore.

”He knew that he was being used for his political standing and hoped to influence matters in Glencore’s favour,” said Molefe.

The former Public Investment Corporation and Transnet chief executive added, “He is not naïve and has been dealing with corporates which gave him his riches”.

Molefe’s testimony is not the first time the claims about Ramaphosa using his political clout to favour Glencore have been made.

In his 2016 book, Murder At Small Koppie: The Real Story of the Marikana Massacre, photo journalist Greg Marinovich writes that an interviewee, who wanted to remain anonymous, told him that a Glencore executive informed business partners that, “I don’t want to be crude, but we made him” and that Shanduka Coal, which was Ramaphosa’s company at the time, was Glencore’s front.

When the book was published, Ramaphosa was the country’s deputy president and his office denied the claims.

Molefe said Glencore made Ramaphosa rich.

”Glencore is a multi-billion rand company, their black economic empowerment partner Ramaphosa subsequently became the deputy president and president of the country.

And this happened without any cooling-off period, it is rumoured that his campaign to be president of the ANC was financed to the tune of R1 billion, this was unprecedented in the ANC, and I dare say, was not in line with the culture, values and ethos of the ANC that I had come to know and which I continue to be a member of,” he said.

According to Molefe, mere mortals like him simply do not stand a chance when they pit themselves against these powerful forces who were trying to extort R8 billion from a state-owned entity Eskom.

The R8 billion is what Glencore’s demand, that Eskom increase the price of coal per ton from R150 to R530, would have cost the power utility over three years and the writing off of R2 billion in penalties, incurred by the company.

Molefe also expressed his displeasure at ex-Public Protector Thuli Madonsela for her 2016 state of capture report that led to the establishment of the commission.

“It is clear that Glencore had unfettered access to Thuli Madonsela and were able to impress on her what their beef with Eskom was,” he said.

Molefe accused Madonsela of not bothering to interview him for his side of the story, as required by the Public Protector Act.

”She did none of that, proceeded in unprecedented haste to write and label as final a report which has been used to lynch certain people including myself and which gave rise to this commission. This commission is a child of a report that was written in very suspicious circumstances,” he complained.

Molefe could not complete his testimony on Friday after commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo announced that an official working closely with him tested positive for Covid-19, forcing the country’s second most senior judge to self-isolate.

Political Bureau

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Cyril Ramaphosa