Former Eskom board chair details Gupta interference at Eskom
Johannesburg - The Zondo commission has heard how former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi had faced pressure from former minister Lynne Brown to appoint committee members favoured by the Guptas.
Tsotsi appeared at the commission on Thursday. He served two terms between 2011 until 2015 as an Eskom board member.
The commission’s focus on Tsotsi’s evidence was largely based on the decisions taken by Eskom to pay for sponsorship deals with TNA regarding its televised business breakfasts.
The breakfasts were hosted live on SABC’s Morning Live show. The events have been largely seen as controversial and as “quick money-making scheme” for the Guptas.
Several state-owned enterprises poured millions in advertising revenue to support the breakfast events.
Tsotsi said when he began his first term as a board member, he was under the impression that Eskom sponsorship of the business breakfasts had been ongoing. He said former Eskom CEO Brian Dames had given him that impression and that when the power utility signed contracts with TNA in 2012 and 2014 it had been renewals.
He said he was never involved in the negotiations of the TNA breakfasts sponsorships.
Former Eskom CEO Collins Matjila went on to sign a R43 million sponsorship deal with TNA.
Tsotsi said there were some questions around whether Matjila could be held accountable for what was later seen as an irregular contract deal with TNA.
He said he was later approached by Tony Gupta who asked that he assist with the issues regarding the contract deal between Eskom and TNA.
“I stopped at the offices (Gupta’s Sahara offices) and he (Tony Gupta) was there. He said to me we have a problem here because there is some issue with signing of our contract and there is something we do not understand in that Mr Matjila may have done something wrong in signing the contract.
"He said since I was the chairman this was something I could deal with. He said ‘can you make this thing go away’. I think it was a reference to investigation dealing with the signing of the contract,” Tsotsi said.
He said Gupta appeared visibly upset when he refused to help.
Tsotsi also recalled the Gupta’s interference in the appointment of committee members for Eskom's board in 2014. He said he had received an email from Gupta associate Salim Essa who insisted that he use his drawn-up list when appointing committee members.
“He (Salim Essa) had asked me to have a look at the committee list he had drawn up and that I should show it to the minister. I was taken aback by his email as I did not understand his role. I ignored his email and continued to compile the list as I wanted to and I passed this on to minister (Lynne Brown). The minister then sent back the list and gave me the same list that Mr Essa had sent me,” Tsotsi said.
Tsotsi also told the commission about a meeting at Brown’s residence where Tony Gupta and Essa were present. He said he was instructed by Brown to compile the board committees according to her list.
Brown has previously denied that she had been influenced by the Guptas in her decision making, however, she does not deny the meeting with Tsotsi.
"There was Tony Gupta and Salim Essa. The minister indicated to me that I should proceed with the allocation of board members as she had recommended to me," he said.