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Friday, August 12, 2022

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Lynne Brown mulls revealing all

FORMER public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. l FILE

FORMER public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. l FILE

Published Jun 12, 2022


Hot on the heels of the arrest of Atul and Rajesh Gupta, embattled former Cabinet minister Lynne Brown is still adamant that she had no dealings with the controversial brothers.

Brown promised a tell-all book about her political career and how she became a political scapegoat during an interview with the Weekend Argus at her upmarket home in Rondebosch East.

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Fighting back tears, Brown held her hand to her chest, and asked: “Does this face look like it can empty the state’s coffers?”

She said she was also mulling over taking the State Capture Commission’s report on review.

“My lawyer will study the reports and the president’s recommendations,” said Brown, who is a lightning rod to controversy.

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“I might go to court,” she said, mooting the idea of a class action.

Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa is the latest politician to approach the court in an attempt to overturn the findings of the commission, headed by Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, against him.

The state capture reports, especially the parts Brown deemed “spurious”, laid bare how Brown and the Gupta enablers she worked with closely made it possible for the Guptas to drain the country’s coffers.

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“I don’t know Atul and Rajesh Gupta,” Brown, 60, stated vehemently.

“I only know the oldest brother, Ajay. I met him 15 years ago.”

Atul and Rajesh were arrested this week in Dubai, and extradition negotiations are under way.

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Brown said: “I did nothing wrong,” adding that the time was ripe to provide reason and clarity to the state capture allegations.

Brown, who hails from Mitchells Plain, was an English teacher before she became involved in politics in 1989. She was appointed by former president Jacob Zuma to his Cabinet in 2014 and removed from the Cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

Prior to her appointment as minister of public enterprises, Brown was the leader of the opposition in the Western Cape legislature after she was replaced as premier when the DA won the elections in 2009.

The State Capture Commission heard evidence from Brown’s former personal assistant, Kim Davids, that she communicated with Gupta associate and businessman Salim Essa “on Brown’s behalf”.

Essa emerged as a key player and enabler in the Gupta state capture.

The state capture report showed that Brown had several telephone conversations with Essa, something she denies. Through Davids, a list of new board members for state-owned Eskom was forwarded to Brown.

The commission found that Brown facilitated state capture by “using the powers of her office” to appoint members to the board of state munitions manufacturer Denel. The board, the commission said, would “facilitate or not oppose” the Guptas’ syphoning tens of millions of rand from Denel.

Her appointment of Daniel Mantsha raised eyebrows, especially when Mantsha suspended former chief executive Riaz Saloojee. According to news reports, Brown’s appointment of Mantsha was frowned upon at the time, given that Mantsha – a former long-term attorney for Zuma – was struck off the roll from 2001 to 2007 for “unprofessional conduct”.

Brown, who has been out of the political spotlight for the past five years, said she was “left humiliated”.

“It not only took an immense toll on myself but my family and loved ones as well,” Brown said. “It rattled them more, much more.”

Brown said Eskom, under her leadership as minister, was in a “spectacular state”, because “for my three years there was no load shedding”.

“It was my motto. I said we will not implement load shedding.”

But power experts believe South Africans are now paying for this policy, as Eskom was prohibited from doing necessary maintenance that would have prevented load shedding. A source said maintenance was postponed for three years under Brown’s watch, leading to breakdowns now.

But Brown is adamant that she will clear her name – if not in court, then in her book.

Weekend Argus.