Former board chairperson at Eskom, Zola Tsotsi testified to the commission on Eskom-related decisions made during his time at the helm.
 Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency(ANA).
Former board chairperson at Eskom, Zola Tsotsi testified to the commission on Eskom-related decisions made during his time at the helm.
 Picture: Nhlanhla Phillips/African News Agency(ANA).

Gigaba ‘said no to white Eskom CEO’

By ZINTLE MAHLATI Time of article published Jan 24, 2020

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Johannesburg - Former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi has lifted the lid on how former Public Enterprises minister Malusi Gigaba allegedly chastised him for appointing an executive at Eskom as acting chief executive.

Tsotsi told the Commission of Inquiry into state capture that after Brian Dames left as chief executive there was a need for an acting chief executive.

The board at the time, in 2014, decided that none of the board members would act in the post and that one of the executives be chosen.

It was decided that Steve Lennon, a group executive, would act as chief executive. Tsotsi said he had discussions with Gigaba about appointing Lennon, and at the time Gigaba had agreed to it. Months later, Gigaba allegedly chastised Tsotsi, in a phone call, over the appointment of Lennon as he was a white man. Gigaba took issue with Lennon’s appointment ahead of the 2014 general elections.

“I was taken aback. His manner was surprising,” said Tsotsi.

Gigaba later told Tsotsi that Collin Matjila should be appointed as acting chief executive. Matjila was a board member and his appointment went against the board decision. Matjila was appointed to the post and he went on to play a critical role in the signing of a deal between Eskom and the Gupta-owned The New Age (TNA) newspaper.

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. Tsotsi said he was never involved in the negotiations over the TNA breakfast sponsorships.

Matjila went on to sign a R43 million sponsorship deal with TNA.

Tsotsi said there were questions around whether Matjila could be held accountable for what was later seen as an irregular deal with TNA. He said he was later approached by Tony Gupta who asked “can you make this thing go away?” He thought it was a reference to an investigation dealing with the signing of the contract.

He said Tony Gupta appeared visibly upset when he refused to help.

Tsotsi also recalled the Guptas’ 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. “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 the minister (Lynne Brown). The minister then sent back the list, and gave me the same list that Mr Essa had sent me,” Tsotsi said.

He said at a meeting at Brown’s residence, where Tony Gupta and Essa were present, he was told by Brown to compile the board committee according to her list.

Political Bureau

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