September 23, 2020

Diary of Parliament’s Inquiry into State Capture

It’s the stuff of Kafka short stories. Notes from the House has kept a diary, if for no other reason than to make sure we don't forget.

It’s proved impossible to compile a comprehensive record, so please send information that you think needs to be included to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the diary, but given the complexity, contradictions and outright untruths in the evidence, this cannot be guaranteed.

14 October 2016 – The first call for a “state capture” inquiry is published in the report by then Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela.She requests President Zuma “to appoint, within 30 days, a commission of inquiry headed by a judge solely selected by the Chief Justice who shall provide one name to the President”. Zuma responds by applying for a review.

17 May 2017 – A first attempt by the Public Enterprises Committee to call Minister Lynne Brown and the Eskom board for a briefing is cancelled on the grounds that the matter is “sub judice” as the DA takes court action against Brian Molefe’s unpredictable resignations and reappointments.

23 May 2017 –The Public Enterprises Committee decides to hold an inquiry into Eskom’s reappointment of Brian Molefe and the governance of Eskom as a whole. A meeting is held later that day with Eskom board, Energy Minister and Deputy Minister. Acting Committee chair reports there are “underlying issues” that were not forthcoming from the board or the Minister and she says an inquiry is clearly needed.

25 May 2017 ‑ Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown announces that she is to hold her own inquiry into allegations of state capture against Eskom and Brian Molefe. She will use the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) and a retired judge and go further than Madonsela's State of Capture report. Brown says if necessary she will go to the NPA for further action.

14 June 2017 ‑ President Jacob Zuma consults with legal advisers to launch a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa supports the move. He says Zuma “has stated he is not opposed to such a commission”.

19 June 2017 ‑ House Chairperson of Committees, Cedric Frolick, announces four National Assembly Committees ‑ Home Affairs, Mineral Resources, Public Enterprises and Transport –are to probe state capture by “immediate engagement with the concerned Ministers to ensure that Parliament gets to the bottom of the allegations”.

20 June 2017 ‑ DA rejects “half-baked state capture 'probe' and calls for an Ad Hoc Committee investigation, arguing that Portfolio Committees initiate probes or can be instructed to do so by the House; the House Chairperson does not have that authority. The DA also registers its concern that Committees don’t have the resources to conduct a commission of inquiry.

21 June 2017 – Public Enterprises Committee meets to consider terms of reference and a list of witnesses. Documents are circulated, including from Eskom. Acting Chair Zukiswa Rantho warns it will not be a straightforward process, especially as it is the first time that a Committee had been involved in such an investigation. Acting Chair Rantho asks Parliament for additional researchers and legal staff and for the services of Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Senior Legal Adviser at Parliament and SABC Ad Hoc Committee evidence leader.

Acting Chairperson told by Frolick that Vanara is unavailable due to his current workload as the Registrar of Members’ Interests.

Rantho announces Committee is prepared to work “ungodly hours” to fulfil this oversight duty and “save our country [by making] sure our government is accountable”. Rantho says everyone on the Committee, regardless of political affiliations, has agreed to work as a team to “not fail the nation... The Committee needed to have the inquiry, regardless of who did not want it”.

At this preparatory meeting, Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, General Secretary: South African Council of Churches, presents SACC’s “Unburdening Report”; Rudie Heynecke, Head of Investigations: Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), presents its report “No Room to Hide” where it focuses on Eskom; and Prof Ivor Chipkin, Director: Public Affairs Research Institute at the Universities of Witwatersrand and Cape Town, presents their report on behalf of the State Capacity Research Project, “Betrayal of the Promise”, that shows criminality and looting at Eskom by Zuma and describes work of a criminal network that has captured the state, “to repurpose state institutions to suit a constellation of rent-seeking networks that had constructed a shadow state. This was akin to a silent coup.”

He says SOEs, particularly Eskom and Transnet, “were the primary vehicles for managing state capture and the large-scale looting of state resources, which in turn created a continuous source of self-enrichment and funding for the power elite and their patronage network”.

27 July 2017‑ DA expresses concern that Parliament is placing a stranglehold on the committees tasked with investigating state capture by not providing them with the resources they need to be properly resourced to handle such an in depth investigations.

DA argues for an Ad Hoc Committee on state capture “if they are to stand any chance of getting to the bottom of the rot within the ANC led-government”. Rantho also identifies lack of resources as a problem.

1 August 2017 – Inquiry on Eskom scheduled to start, but requests more time for preparation.

8 August 2017 ‑ Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown writes to Committee Chairperson “seeking clarity” on terms of reference and the nature of the inquiry.

23 August 2017 – News emerges of "hasty disposal of the Gupta-owned South African resources" as Gupta family reported to be disinvesting from a number of South African-based companies, including TV channel ANN7, The New Age newspaper and coal company Tegeta.

27 August 2017 – Parliament spokesperson announces inquiry into alleged state capture at state-owned enterprises to get off the ground shortly, and "The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises will, with immediate effect, receive comprehensive legal and support services to carry out its inquiry,” said Parliament's spokesperson Moloto Mothapo in a statement. Vanara to lead evidence.

17 September 2017 ‑ Public Protector Busi Mkhwebane adds her voice to the call for President Zuma to establish a commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture. Advocate Hamilton Maenentje SC, representing the Public Protector, agrees. “This is not a case in which the President wants to appoint a commission of inquiry to investigate a train accident. Here, the President is implicated,” says Maenentje.

23 September 2017 – First appearance by Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources, who says it has undertaken to invite Minister Mosebenzi Zwane to provide answers.

4 October 2017 ‑ Public Enterprises Minister presents the Department of Public Enterprises’ Annual Report for 2016/17 and says she intends holding a special general meeting to appoint a permanent Eskom board, with the appointment process already underway.

15 October 2017 ‑ DA’s Mmusi Maimane threatens legal action unless National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete approves an Ad Hoc Committee inquiry into state capture by the end of October.

16 October 2017 ‑ Lynne Brown sends another letter to Chairperson of the Public Enterprise Committee “seeking clarity” on the terms of reference and the nature of the committee inquiry. Raises conflicts of interests of evidence leader and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, and asks to what extent the inquiry would rely on the Gupta Leaks emails.

17 October 2017 ‑ Parliament’s inquiry into State Capture starts in Public Enterprises Committee. It starts with Eskom, SA’s largest state-owned entity. Acting chairperson Rantho spells out inquiry’s mandate and scope and says investigations into Transnet and Denel to follow.

First witness: energy specialist Professor Anton Eberhard‚ for UCT and Stellenbosch academics. Says Eskom has seen “blatant acts of corruption”, electricity prices have increased by 400% in past 10 years due to "rent-seeking and corruption".

18 October 2017 – First meeting of Mineral Resources with Minister.

19 October 2017 – Second witness: Fomer Eskom CEO, Brian Dames, says he was called by then Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba to a meeting to discuss coal contracts, and New Age business breakfasts. Thought a Gupta brother may have been present. Dames, who had worked for Eskom for 27 years, said everything changed after new board was established in 2010 following appointment of Gigaba as Public Enterprises Minister.

Third witness: Former Eskom official Ted Blom, now at Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), claims there are up to a thousand cases of alleged tender corruption, that Eskom is paying four times more for coal than it should be, 400,000 tonnes of paid for coal has gone “missing”, Eskom is running at a R27-billion loss to date. “The extent of the inefficiency is mind-boggling,” he says.

Blom tells inquiry Eskom borrowed R480-billion from government to pay for R93-billion worth of assets, the government has sold shares in Vodacom to bail out Eskom and loaned the parastatal R60-billion. Blom says Eskom won’t be able to pay back the money.

Mineral Resources Committee calls its first witness, Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who asks “Why does this committee just have an interest in my meeting with just one family? I meet many businesspeople as I do my work. It is the same with this family.”

Black First Land First sends letter to Chairperson of Public Enterprises Committee and Speaker threatening legal action if probe not halted.

ANC weekly caucus witnesses factional tensions with group of MPs voicing unhappiness with the committee’s work and calling on it to be abandoned. Sources claim Mervyn Dirks, a KwaZulu-Natal MP, forced the discussion, which was not on the agenda. Dirks replied: “I’m not corrupt. I’ve never done anything wrong. I’ve never met the Guptas.”

20 October 2017 ‑ Acting chair Rantho replaced by ANC National Executive Committee Member Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe.

22 October 2017 ‑ FBI announces it is investigating the Guptas. Former anti-apartheid activist and now Lord Peter Hain calls on UK government to follow suit. Ramaphosa points out it seems as if only the Hawks and NPA haven’t joined the investigation.

Zuma supporters lobby Luthuli House to call off the parliamentary state capture inquiry, accuse ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu of trying to get support for Ramaphosa, and says this is a smear campaign directed at President Zuma and presidential hopeful Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

23 October 2017 ‑ SACP in KwaZulu-Natal calls for recall of ANC MPs who want to stop Parliament's probe into state capture.

24 October 2017 ‑ Public Enterprises Committee into State Capture takes a week’s break.

30 October 2017 ‑ Zuma applies to High Court to set aside Madonsela’s report, says the new Public Protector‚ Busisiwe Mkhwebane‚ must continue the state capture investigation, later Zuma promises to set up his own inquiry instead. DA and EFF reject this.

31 October 2017 – Fourth witness: whistleblower who gave information to former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, during her probe into state capture, Mosilo Mothepu. Reveals Trillian Capital Partner’s CEO Eric Wood told her on 26 October 2015 that Nene would be fired. According to Mothepu, new minister Des van Rooyen to channel all the work from state-owned enterprises and Treasury to Trillian. Mohamed Bobat appointed advisor to van Rooyen and Wood appoints a PR company to write the new minister’s speeches.

1 November 2017 – Fifth witness: Business Rescue Practitioner Piers Marsden appointed by Eskom in August, gives evidence on how Gupta’s Tegeta R600million short for purchase of Optimum Coal Mine. Eskom paid Tegeta R586m pre-payment for coal at that time.

7 November 2017 – Sixth witness: Former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona says Eskom Board dysfunctional when he arrived in 2014. Most conflict was over procurement, especially the R43m deal with New Age newspaper. “The long and short of it is that Eskom was in serious financial trouble,” he said.

14 November 2017 – Seventh witness: Eskom’s General Manager in the Office of the Chairperson, Khulani Qoma, says Minister Brown is “incapable” and a “liar”. Says Brown intervened at the request of the Guptas to prevent the suspension of then interim CEO Matshela Koko by the Eskom board. Koko was central to deals with Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration & Resources. Former board chairman Ben Ngubane confirmed to him that the Eskom board was on the verge of suspending Koko earlier this year when Brown phoned to prevent it. Qoma said Khoza had also told him that Brown was captured and reported to the Guptas.

Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Ben Martins says in a statement that evidence leader “has failed to uphold the standard and principles of fairness” in the inquiry.

16 November 2017 ‑ The State Attorney, at the behest of Public Enterprises, threatens to report Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara to the General Council of the Bar for his conduct as evidence leader, court confirms the parliamentary committee is acting according to the Constitution.

21 November 2017 ‑ Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe gives testimony for five hours. He rejects Brown’s suggestion that he had resigned and not gone on pension. Admits to having approximately 60 phone calls with Ajay Gupta, saying that is “not that many” and they were talking about coal quality. He claimed not to have known that Eskom was doing business with the Gupta-linked company Trillian. By end of evidence still not clear if he knew or did not know of the power utility’s deal with Trillian, but maintains he had no direct knowledge of corruption. He was busy focusing on load shedding at the time.

He dismisses the idea that he was seconded from Transnet to Eskom to facilitate deals with for the Gupta family. He says he moved to Eskom because he shared public anger about scheduled power outages. Tempers rise with Molefe in the hot seat.

Next witness (lost count by now): Eskom’s former chair, Zola Tsotsi, reveals SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni organised meeting for him with Dudu Myeni and Jacob Zuma in Durban, March 2015. Out of this emerged presidential instructions to suspend three uncooperative executives. This came after Brown had accused him of interfering with management and warned him that if he didn’t refrain, she would find someone else to do the job.

Tsotsi also tells of a chat with Tony Gupta, who accused him of not cooperating and warned him that they could hire or fire Eskom board members. He repeats Tony Gupta’s words: We are the one’s who put you in the position you are in. We are the ones who can take you out.”

Tsotsi says Guptas and Salim Essa worked with Brown on list of board members. When he went to Brown’s house to finalise the list, he found the Guptas and Essa at her home. Brown later denies this.

Tsotsi says he was charged with not being a fit director – which he claims forced him to resign under duress. “My removal – not resignation – from Eskom, I am convinced beyond reasonable doubt, was orchestrated from somewhere else.” Points out Gupta leaks email which shows that former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa wrote a statement on his resignation for Ben Ngubane about 10 days before he resigned.

21 November 2017 ‑ Evidence leader Vanara says State Security Minister Bongani Bongo offered him ‘a blank cheque’ bribe to withdraw from the proceedings.

22 November 2017 – Minister Brown starts her testimony to Parliament’s Eskom inquiry by denying claims she consulted with members of the Gupta family before making decisions. 

She is grilled about the suspension of four Eskom officials, including Eskom finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and former CEO Tshediso Matona, in March 2015. She says President Jacob Zuma never called her to discuss the suspension of the four officials.

Earlier Tsotsi had testified that Ben Ngubane had told him that Brown had wanted Molefe added to the list. “I did not propose anybody’s name,” replies Brown. “I don’t think I would have ever put somebody’s name on the list.”

“What is your response to that? Did you or did you not give [Molefe’s] name over to Dr Ngubane to add to the list?” asks Vanara again.

“I did not,” says Brown.

“So Mr Tsotsi was lying?” asks Vanara. 

“The fact that I did not and he did means one of us is lying and I don’t think I am lying,” she says.

It might have been at this point that EFF’s Floyd Shivambu says that if he had to choose between Tsotsi’s and Brown’s testimony, he would believe Tsotsi. 

Vanara asked if she had not foreseen that the suspension would lead to a credit rating downgrade. “We all saw a downgrade coming,” says Brown. Pravin Gordhan weighs in, arguing that the suspension contributed to an Eskom downgrade. “You have no regrets about the fact that you agreed to these suspensions?” he asks Brown.

DA’s Natasha Mazzone asks the Minister if she has any knowledge of Gupta interference in state-owned entities that fall under her purview. "I am not buying that you don't know now that Gupta people are systematically coming into our state-owned entities, cutting them up into chunk sizes and selling them off," says Mazzone.

Brown concedes to knowing that Tegeta is a company that operates within Eskom. “In Transnet I am not aware of any Gupta-owned companies that operate in Transnet now under my watch,” says Brown. She asks Mazzone if she knows of any other Gupta-linked firms.

“Yes I know," says Mazzone. “54 million South Africans know”.

Vanara asks Brown if she understood that former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe had resigned in November 2016. 

On Tuesday Molefe, in testimony before the committee, disputed that he had resigned from Eskom. He had told the committee that while he put out a media statement in late 2016 that mentioned a decision to step down, this had not yet been implemented and he later applied for early retirement. 

Brown told the committee she had understood that he had resigned. 

“If it helps, it would appear to me that we agree, at least, in that respect,” says Vanara.

“I was surprised to discover that the Board had concluded an agreement with Molefe for an early retirement, but did not consider it to be irregular at that point,' she said.

“Subsequent events have persuaded me that the ‘early retirement agreement’ was not only irregular but possibly an ex post facto fabrication.” 

The minister said that her view that Molefe had resigned persisted until 16 April 2017 ‑ some five months after he left Eskom ‑ when she “read in a newspaper that he was to receive a R30m pension payout".

Brown had told Parliament that Trillian, which was related to Gupta associate Salim Essa, had no relationship with Eskom. She later clarified that she had been given incorrect information and that Trillian and global consultancy McKinsey are at the centre of state capture and corruption allegations related to the power utility.

“That must have put you in a very compromising position because telling inaccurate information to Parliament exposes one to criminal charges,” said Vanara. 

24 November 2017 – Prasa’s interim board appears for the first time before the Transport Committee’s state capture inquiry. Chairperson Tintswalo Makhubele says she has not yet been through the two forensic reports related to maladministration at the rail agency.

27 November 2017 – The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises announces it will continue questioning witnesses from 5 to 8 December 2017 (by which time this reporter will be on leave). The State Capture Diary will be updated monthly from when Parliament reopens next year.

29 November 2017 Meanwhile the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources accepts apology for non-appearance of Minister Msebenzi Zwane who had agreed at last meeting on 18 Oct to appear before before the Committee.

29 November 2017 – Eskom interim chairman, Zethembe Khoza, indignantly rejects allegations that he is behind Bongo’s alleged attempt to shut down the inquiry by bribing Vanara. He declares his full support for the inquiry.

5 December 2017 – First up at the Public Enterprises Committee is Eskom executive support manager Anton Minnaar who insists Molefe was a permanent employee and therefore entitled to be on the pension scheme. Asked how someone on a contract could be considered permanent, he replies he understood Molefe to be a “permanent employee with a term”, and anyway he says Molefe earned his R30m pension payout because he helped halt load shedding.  

5 December 2017 – At last it is the long-postponed turn of suspended Eskom CFO Anoj Singh, but no. It turns out he sent his 400 pages of evidence close to midnight the night before when most members were already asleep, even though it had been requested six months ago. He is sent packing but is not off the hook. “See you in January,” he is told, and this time he will have to pay for his own flights because, “We are not like Eskom where if we feel it necessary to give our friends a certain amount‚ we just give that amount. We account to the public of South Africa,” the chairperson says.

It’s Khoza’s turn. He reads a statement that goes back through the history of Eskom. Under questioning he also thinks Molefe was a “permanent employee with a fixed tenure of five years”. Moreover, he denies that almost R600m was prepaid to Gupta-linked firm Tegeta to buy Optimum Coal Mine from Glencore.

6 December 2017 – It’s the last day of the inquiry for 2017 and Khoza closes it by scoring the Eskom Board seven out of ten. That’s a fail.

Next exciting instalment in January.

Moira Levy

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  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 17:47

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Notes from the House is an independent online publication that tracks and monitors Parliament’s role in fulfilling its constitutional responsibilities to improve the lives of South African citizens. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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