Former SABC boss Ben Ngubane File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Eskom board chairperson Dr Baldwin “Ben” Ngubane on Tuesday responded to former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s blackmail allegations, labelling them “preposterous”.

This follows earlier reports alleging that Ngubane and Eskom CEO Brian Molefe had tried to pressurise the former minister to blackmail resources giant Glencore.

This was in an attempt to help the Gupta family buy the company's Optimum coal mine, which supplied Eskom’s Hendrina power station.

According to a report by amaBhungane, Ramatlhodi alleged that Ngubane and Molefe had pressed him to blackmail the company in order to ensure the Gupta family was able to buy Optimum.

At the time, Optimum was reportedly under business administration after Molefe refused to renegotiate the price of a long-term coal contract and reinstated a R2.17 billion penalty on Optimum for allegedly supplying "substandard coal".

Ngubane, speaking to reporters at the Africa Utilities Week conference, explained that he only became aware of the allegations after his office told him about Ramatlhodi's interview with 702.

“My office told me that there was a broadcast where the minister claimed that we forced him [to blackmail Glencore],” he said.

“The minister is claiming something that is impossible; we can’t instruct a minister to do anything.”

Ngubane explained that all they did was take their problems to the various ministers to request assistance.

He added that Ramatlhodi’s allegations were therefore “preposterous” and "impossible".

Meanwhile, Ramatlhodi has has made more damning allegations, this time against the Gupta family.

Ramatlhodi revealed during an interview with eNCA that the family had made attempts to meet with him on several occasions during his tenure as mineral resources minister.

They did this using President Jacob Zuma's son Duduzane, Ramatlhodi alleged.

"The Gupta family tried to meet with me several times but I simply told them to buzz off," he said.

"Duduzane tried to facilitate a meeting with them... asking if I wanted to meet his partner Ajay... but I refused and questioned why I needed to meet them."

Ramatlhodi then informed Duduzane that he intended to report the matter to the president, which he then proceeded to do.

Following the damning revelation, political parties have lashed out at Ramatlhodi and called for a full-scale investigation into the former minister's claims.

The Pan Africanist Congress said Ramatlhodi’s allegations were “disappointing” and slammed the former minister for failing to speak out during his tenure as minister.

The party accused Ramatlhodi of acting like “a paid-agent advancing a detailed agenda of hidden forces” and urged citizens to not fall for his trickery.

“We must not allow our hearts and emotions to fall to Ramatlhodi's tricks because he is a bitter gentleman who is looking for public sympathy by all means.

“Our people should not be taken for granted by desperate politicians.”

The Democratic Alliance, meanwhile, called for a parliamentary inquiry into Eskom without delay.

The party’s Natasha Mazzone, DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, explained that she had written to Parliament’s Chair of Chairs, Cedric Frolick, to request that the public enterprises committee launch a full-scale probe into the power utility.

“I have this morning written to Mr Frolick to urge that these most recent “Ramatlhodi allegations” also be investigated in the course of the inquiry and that Mr Frolick urgently provides a timeline for the inquiry.

“We demand that this matter receives the utmost urgency and is taken with full seriousness by Parliament.”

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