Resolute MPs to issue summons as they lose patience with 'Gupta tantrums'

06 December 2017 - 15:47 By Thabo Mokone
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul.
Ajay Gupta and his younger brother Atul.

Parliament's inquiry into the alleged capture of Eskom has adjourned for the year‚ with MPs saying attacks on them have only served "to make them stronger".

The MPs have also stated that they would not allow "Gupta tantrums" to disrupt their efforts to uncover corruption and financial mismanagement at the power utility after Ajay Gupta and his family wrote to the public enterprises committee that is conducting the inquiry‚ dictating terms of engagement between them and the oversight body.

The parliamentary committee has been attacked by political figures seen as Gupta supporters‚ such as the Black First Land First movement‚ as well as public enterprises minister Lynne Brown‚ who has likened it to a kangaroo court‚ while some ANC MPs seen as supporters of President Jacob Zuma have tried in vain to stop it from going ahead.

ANC MP and acting chairperson of the inquiry Zukiswa Rantho as well as DA MP Natasha Mazzone have also received deaths threats over their work in the inquiry while evidence leader advocate Nthuthuzelo Vanara has allegedly been offered a bribe by state security minister Bongani Bongo who was apparently doing so on the instructions of acting Eskom Board chair Zethembe Khoza.

Khoza has consistently denied the allegation.

Wrapping up the proceedings ahead of the festive season break‚ Rantho said MPs across the political spectrum had done sterling work in the last six months in exposing the extent of the rot plaguing Eskom.

Rantho said they are likely to resume the inquiry in mid-January 2018 and they have resolved to summons the deputy minister of public enterprises Ben Martins after he snubbed the inquiry on Wednesday.

In a letter Martins said his written submission to the committee sufficed and he therefore saw no reason to present himself for interrogation by MPs.

"Those who see this process as undermining them‚ I just want to say we are serving the country‚" said Rantho.

"With the attacks we've had as [members of] the committee‚ I think those attacks have made us more stronger and we now know exactly how to focus. I have also learnt the hard way.”

The committee has also taken a decision to summon Ajay Gupta and other members of his family who are implicated in the capture of Eskom.

The Guptas sent two separate letters to the committee - one from Ajay himself and the other from the entire family - in which they ask parliament to engage them via written questions‚ and to also give them 10 days' notice if they are to appear before the hearing‚ among other demands.

In his letter‚ Ajay Gupta has also denied being at a meeting with Martins and suspended Eskom legal head Suzzane Daniels at which they plotted to lobby employees in the Gauteng North High Court to delay the case related to the employment of former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe.

ANC MP Mondli Gungubele was more scathing in reaction to the letters from the Guptas‚ saying they amounted to nothing but tantrums that should not be entertained by parliament.

"If they want to talk us‚ let's arrange that they come and sit here and answer questions‚ there must be no people who've got the privilege of talking to us through their letter that are disruptive.

"We don’t want spend [too much time] dealing with the tantrums of Gutpa‚ cause these are tantrums as far as I'm concerned. I think these chaps have had it nice here in South Africa‚" said Gungubele.

In his second day of grilling by the committee‚ Khoza conceded that the Eskom board had performed dismally in its oversight and "strategic leadership" of the utility.

Under questioning from IFP MP Narend Singh‚ Khoza gave the Eskom board performance a scorecard of 3 out of 10.