LIVE FEED: State Capture Inquiry – March 22, 2021
Johannesburg - Former Public Enterprise minister Lynne Brown is back on the witness stand at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture on Monday.
Brown began giving testimony last week and has faced tough questions especially on her role as the minister overseeing state-owned entities such as Eskom.
On Monday she faced questions regarding the suspension of four Eskom executives in 2015 and the ultimate removal of former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi.
She told the inquiry that she and Tsotsi had a tough relationship.
Last week, Brown told the inquiry that she took over her role as the minister while Eskom had suffered financially and was struggling to get a handle on load shedding.
“It was spending a lot of money to keep the lights on by purchasing diesel. It, therefore, did not do maintenance.
“All of Eskom plants were 25 years and older and some of the plants’ lives were extended by more than 10 years,” she said.
Brown told the Commission that Eskom had a huge debt, which at the time was R180 billion.
“By the time I was reshuffled out of the Cabinet, Eskom debt was at about R260bn. I think the debt is at R450bn.”
Brown added she had been informed by the then Eskom board chairperson and chief executive in December 2014 they would not have money to pay more 42 000 workers.
“Eskom was in real dire straits, including the fact when I got there the then board was in a very highly conflicted state. There was a tender for Koeberg that happened three years before my time but came to an end in my time,” she said.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo told the former minister on Friday that she should definitely use the opportunity to deal with all relevant matters.
“Make sure you put your side of the story properly because that is important,” he said.
On Friday Brown opened up about the “attacks” she endured after she quit active politics in 2018. Brown said when she was removed as Minister of Public Enterprises, she also resigned from the National Assembly.
“It did take its toll on my family and friends. The attacks were no longer on me,” she said.
“When I joined politics, I was the person who could take the attacks. When they started going for my family and friends, I sat down,” said Brown, who is now at the retirement age of 60.
She told the commission that the attacks were in essence driven by a campaign about whether she was part of capturing the state via an entrance with Guptas, former president Jacob Zuma and others.
“The attacks actually dealt with personal matters. It dealt with people who have nothing to do with my work, family and friends.
“Also, if I were to read everything I read in newspapers, I would not be surprised anyone of you thought I was living in a palace with two sports cars in my basement, a house maybe built by the Guptas.”
Brown told the commission she lived in her own house she bought 28 years ago and paid it off when she retired from active politics.
“I drive the same car I had driven before. I think they were quite unmitigated attacks. I then left politics.”
She said the attacks had happened when her father was very ill.
“He played a big role in me not staying in formal politics.”
Brown, however, said she was still an ANC member.
“I have been waiting for this occasion to come to the commission. I hope I will be able to clear myself. This process will help to set my reputation straight again,” she said.
“This is a very important occasion for me. It is a very important occasion for me to be able to clear my name. I am grateful to you chair,” she said, adding that she has always been a supporter of the Zondo Commission.
“I believe it will separate fact from fiction. It will separate a narrative from reality,” Brown added.