LIVE FEED: State Capture Inquiry – March 3, 2021
JOBURG – Former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe and former Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh are expected to take the stand.
Yesterday, Molefe wanted the explosive claims he has made against President Cyril Ramaphosa to be investigated by the commission of inquiry into state capture.
Molefe’s legal team made the request after the allegations he made of Ramaphosa using his political influence to assist mining multinational Glencore, the one-time owners of Optimum Coal.
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Ramaphosa was Optimum Coal chairperson until he became former president Jacob Zuma’s deputy in May 2014.
Molefe’s advocate, Thabani Masuku SC, told the commission that his client gave evidence in January, implicating Ramaphosa and gave facts.
”It is up to the commission to investigate based on the facts that he gave. The questions you are asking him, whether he is accusing anybody of anything, I think it’s unfair to ask him whether or not he is accusing anybody when he has given you facts,” Masuku said.
“The first, important point is to determine whether or not the facts he has given you are correct. If they are correct, it’s up to you, Chair, to decide whether there is a conflict of interest that can be read into it, and that really takes the other side being given a hearing on whether the evidence that has been provided by Molefe does create a conflict of interest.”
According to Masuku, the most important thing for the commission was to investigate the facts presented by Molefe.
”He doesn’t have to accuse anybody for the commission to conduct its own investigation. He might say he is not accusing anybody but in your investigation you might find out there is some wrongdoing,” said Masuku.
Molefe had testified before commission chairperson deputy chief Justice Raymond Zondo that mining multinational Glencore – Optimum Coal’s owners before the company was taken over by Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources – sold a stake to make Ramaphosa its black economic empowerment (BEE) partner.
”The only way that they could get out of the pickle that they subsequently found themselves in, because they had not done due diligence, was through negotiations, and my postulation was that they were hoping to use Ramaphosa’s influence to help them negotiate out of that thing,” said Molefe, referring to the R2.17 billion in penalties issued to Optimum Coal for supplying substandard coal.
He said he did not believe Ramaphosa was not acting in Glencore’s interests.
”I can’t believe that, he was a shareholder, he had an interest in the matter. If the penalties were to be settled because they arose while he was still shareholder, he would have financial benefit. He would have an interest in the settlement of the penalties,” Molefe said.
Optimum Coal Mine’s shareholders included Purito BV, which was owned by Glencore with 67.58%, while Ramaphosa’s company Lexshell 849 held 9.64%.
”I’m not saying that I definitely know that he peddled influence but the circumstances are such that the situation was likely to arise. Also, there are a lot of unexplained things at Eskom, why were the penalties not pursued? Why were people so lackadaisical in pursuing Eskom’s interests?” Molefe asked.
He said Ramaphosa should have recused himself from the Eskom war room, which Zuma appointed him to chair, if he knew that he had just come out of a company that was having some difficult discussions with Eskom.
Clinton Ephron, former chief executive of Glencore’s coal business in South Africa, director of Optimum Coal Holdings and Optimum Coal Mine, told the commission that Ramaphosa had no direct involvement in the day-to-day operations of either company in the period from 2012 to 2014.
In an affidavit filed last month after Molefe made the allegations against Ramaphosa, Ephron said Ramaphosa was never appointed chairman of Optimum Coal Holdings and Optimum Coal Mine, but instead nominated various professionals from his Shanduka Resources to represent him on the holding company’s board.
”I never asked Ramaphosa to intervene on behalf Optimum Coal Holdings or Optimum Coal Mine in any matters relating to Eskom or the coal supply agreement, and to the best of my knowledge and recollection he never did so,” Ephron said.
Justice Zondo said the commission had limited resources compared to when it started.
”Whatever we can get at the earliest opportunity we should try and get,” he said.
Evidence leader Pule Seleka said he was not aware of any response from Ramaphosa, but that a rule 3.3 notice informing him of Molefe’s allegations was sent to the Presidency.
Molefe is expected to continue his testimony while former Eskom and Transnet chief financial officer Singh is also scheduled to give evidence.