26/11/2018. Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan laid three charges against EFF leader Julius Malema and deputy president Floyd Shivambu at Brooklyn Police Station in Pretoria. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

PARLIAMENT - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday said state capture was first and foremost a political project and was facilitated by former ministers.

Speaking in the debate on the report tabled by the Parliamentary inquiry into Eskom, Gordhan thanked the witnesses who testified truthfully in the probe conducted by the portfolio committee on public enterprises but, without naming them directly, included former Cabinet colleagues in the list of those who enabled the theft of public money and failed to cooperate when called to give evidence.

"We must also say no thanks to those who lied, who hid their roles, who withheld information from the committee and I'm afraid ex-ministers who facilitated capture, board chairs and members who betrayed the country, managers who lied and  stole and broke institutions, businesses who willingly took part in corruption and capture and of course the new erstwhile defenders of corruption as well," he said.

"Ultimately capture and corruption is a political project -- you first capture political office at one or another level, you place key individuals in pivotal positions on boards and in managements, you identify pools of money, you then ask the question how do we benefit the few at the expense of the many and create fantastic schemes and then you ensure no investigation no prosecution and no consequences for the stealing that actually happens."

The minister termed the report, which was adopted by the National Assembly on Thursday, "brilliant".

It found that former public enterprises ministers Lynne Brown and Malusi Gigaba were "grossly negligent" in carrying out their oversight duties and recommended that they be called to make representations to the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture. 

It also listed a host of former Eskom board members and managers who should be called before the commission and noted that their failure, in the face of evidence, to act against corruption could make them criminally liable.

The report also found that legislation on the shareholder's relationship with Eskom may leave room for interpretation and could have contributed to lack of proper oversight.

Gordhan spoke of a deeply embedded culture of corruption and said the country would be deluded to think that changing boards and managers had managed to root it out.

"There is still a lot to do."

Gordhan gave a grim picture of the situation in which state capture had left Eskom and Transnet.

"Today many power stations find themselves in a very precarious situation where they have less than 20 days of supply of coal. With the rainy season coming it means you are going to see a lot more load shedding until and unless emergency arrangements are made but once you make emergency arrangements then you pay a higher price for the coal itself."

Transnet, which was not part of the focus of the inquiry, had been repositioned to focus on infrastructure investment, and this opened the door to massive tender fraud while it suffered revenue losses and ran out of money to maintain the rail system.

"In essence, Transnet was repurposed with the intention of ensuring that money can be extracted on the scale where 36 billion rands of locomotives one day becomes 54 billion rand the next day and Tequesta which is a Gupta-linked, Salim-Essa linked, Hong Kong-based entity got a five billion rand commission for doing absolutely nothing."

He said the company spent R274 billion on capital investment over 12 years but was unable to produce volume growth

"The stealing, if you like, and the corruption took place through trains and locomotives while at the same time the Transnet management had nothing to renew or maintain the rail system on which locomotives are supposed to actually move."

African News Agency (ANA)