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Zola Tsotsi tells Zondo commission: Guptas wanted to capture Eskom

By Zintle Mahlati |IOL|

Former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi has testified at the Zondo commission that Gupta associate Salima Essa interfered and recommended names of who should be included in Eskom’s committees.

Former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Former Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Tsotsi returned to stand on Wednesday. The commission is investigating allegations of corruption at Eskom.

Tsotsi explained Tony Gupta had introduced him to Essa. Essa has been linked to various incidents of corruption at state-owned enterprises and was seen as a middle-man for the Gupta family.

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He has been named extensively in evidence given at the commission including testimony regarding Transnet.

Tsotsi said he had received an email from Essa which contained a list of members who should be included in certain board committees at Eskom.

Tsotsi said he compiled his own list of board committee members and sent it to former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown. He said when Brown responded, she had compiled her own list of who should be included in the committees.

The list was exactly the same one Essa had sent to Tsotsi. When the former board chairperson enquired, Brown instructed him to use her list.

Tsotsi mentioned that at the time Brown was in Mozambique on holiday. He said he was told by Essa where Brown was at the time, in December 2014.

Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo has instructed the commission’s investigators to look into whether Brown was in Mozambique.

Brown’s affidavit to the commission disputes Tsotsi’s version. She denies compiling her own list and forcing Tsotsi to implement it.

Tsotsi, in response to Brown’s denials, said he was certain Brown did force him to implement her list of committee members. He said the former minister was pushing alternative interests on the matter.

“The minister ordinarily would get involved through her being aware of who is on the list. When I sent it to her it was for that reason. It became clear that she was fulfilling other interests. She was at the behest of someone else. She was imposing this list on the board. I did not want to resist that at the time. I thought it was important to keep relations with the shareholder for the company,” Tsotsi explained.

Tsotsi said in his own analysis the Guptas were instrumental in pushing for the removal of Eskom executives and ensuring they were replaced by their own lieutenants.

Former Eskom chief executive Tshedisio Matona was replaced by former Transnet chief executive Brian Molefe. Matona was only six months in the job when he was forced out.

“I had the impression they wanted people who would serve their agenda. They wanted to capture Eskom,” he said.

Tsotsi lasted a few months as Eskom chairperson and resigned in March 2015. Before his departure, his fellow board members had turned against him and began questioning his leadership.

Zondo observed Tsotsi’s departure as a concern especially because the board’s unhappiness with him was based only on two or three meetings it had held following its appointment.

A former Eskom board member Venetian Klein is expected to testify soon.