Zuma told top government official to put Eskom board meeting on hold, inquiry hears
Johannesburg – A top government official on Thursday told the commission of inquiry into state capture that former president Jacob Zuma instructed her to put an Eskom board meeting on hold.
Matsietsi Mokholo, who was acting public enterprises director-general at the time Zuma made the call in 2015, told the commission that when the ex-head of state called, he spoke to her in a mixture of IsiZulu and English.
According to Mokholo, who was the Department of Public Enterprises’ deputy director-general responsible for legal, governance and risk, after pleasantries were exchanged, Zuma told her he tried to get hold of then public enterprises minister Lynne Brown and Bulelani Magwanishe, her deputy at the time.
She said Zuma told her there was a board meeting at Eskom the following day, which Mokholo was not aware of as departmental officials did not know when such meetings were held.
”The president asked me to inform the Eskom chairperson (Zola Tsotsi) that he must postpone the meeting scheduled for the following day and await further instructions from the shareholder minister,” said Mokholo, who is now the Presidency’s deputy director-general responsible for corporate management.
She recalled Zuma instructing her in IsiZulu: “Ngicela usihlalo ahlehlise umhlangano (Please inform the chairperson to postpone the meeting).”
Mokholo said Zuma did not inform her that he was going to call Tsotsi, but told her to just inform the chairperson to wait for further instructions from his shareholder minister (Brown).
She told commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that Zuma was saying the meeting should not proceed.
”My understanding was that it was an instruction,” Mokholo said.
She then informed Tsotsi about Zuma’s instruction but suspected that the chairperson would want reasons.
”I did not call the chairperson immediately, I first tried to call the minister who was travelling abroad. She (Brown) did not pick up and did not respond to a text message,” said Mokholo.
She said Tsotsi demanded to know the reasons for the postponement, but told him that Brown would explain the move.
Tsotsi was very persistent as the meeting was already scheduled, with some board members coming from outside Gauteng, Mokholo said.
”My intent was not to mention that the president had made the request,” she explained.
Tsotsi just said ’’okay’’ and the conversation ended, according to Mokholo.
”I was sweating because it was the first time I had received a call from the president,” she said of Zuma’s phone call.
Whistle-blowers Mosilo Mothepu and Bianca Goodson, formerly chief executive officers of Gupta-linked companies Trillian Financial Advisory and Trillian Management Consultants, will give evidence on Thursday afternoon.