We've got news for you.

Register on TimesLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

IN QUOTES | ‘There was a campaign to taint us as Gupta people’: Brian Molefe tells state capture inquiry

03 March 2021 - 08:30 By cebelihle bhengu
Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe told the state capture inquiry there is no shortage of coal in SA. File photo.
Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe told the state capture inquiry there is no shortage of coal in SA. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said there was a campaign to taint him as a Gupta ally, a claim he denied during his testimony on Tuesday before the state capture inquiry.

Molefe explained why he refused to buy coal from Glencore-owned Optimum Coal Mine after it proposed to increase the price of coal from R150 per ton to R500 in May 2015.

He described the price increase as “preposterous and illegal”, and said this went against an existing agreement in which Optimum had committed to selling coal to Eskom for R150 per ton until 2018.

Here are six  quotes from his testimony:

No coal shortage

“SA has 400 years of coal underground. There is no shortage of coal. What there may be a shortage of is human beings to extract that coal and feed Eskom. There’s no reason coal should be expensive for Eskom. People instill fear in Eskom and say there’s a shortage of coal.”

‘Gupta ally’

“There was a campaign to taint us as Gupta people. There was a media campaign to rubbish us as people who were controlled by the Guptas.”

Optimum price hikes were ‘illegal’

“There was nothing to negotiate. What Optimum was putting on the table was preposterous and illegal because we had an existing agreement that [we would pay] R150 per ton for coal until 2018. Optimum were in the position they were in because when they bought the company in 2012, they did not do due diligence.” 

I was responsible for Eskom, not Optimum

“My duty was not to Optimum. I had no duty to keep Optimum out of bankruptcy and in the process get Eskom into bankruptcy, a company for which I had responsibility. The reason people felt that it was OK to bankrupt Eskom was that it would get money from the fiscus.”

Financial troubles at Glencore

I asked myself how these people whose parenting company is listed in Switzerland, who are operating a global leader in the coal industry, how they could make such simplistic decisions. They had speculated on the price of coal and expected us to pay for it.” 

‘I was threatened’

“Allowing yourself to be threatened is the thing that drives energy costs up in Eskom and leads to high energy prices. You must never appear to be fazed by that threat. Mr Ivan Glasenberg [former Glencore CEO] came to Eskom and said, ‘Mr Molefe if you don’t agree with this agreement, there will be no supply of coal and you will have more load-shedding’. I said, ‘Mr Glasenberg, if you put a gun to my head, I’m going to ask you to shoot’.”