Did Zuma take Ramaphosa or Gupta advice on Brian Molefe’s appointment?

Ramaphosa suggested his appointment in 2015 while the Guptas knew it was coming in 2014

11 August 2021 - 14:19
By mawande amashabalala AND Mawande AmaShabalala
Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe during an appearance at the state capture inquiry. File photo.
Image: Veli Nhlapo Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe during an appearance at the state capture inquiry. File photo.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says he proposed to then president Jacob Zuma in 2015 that Brian Molefe was the perfect person to steer the Eskom ship forward.

Ramaphosa revealed this during his appearance at the state capture inquiry on Wednesday.

His revelation threw a spanner in the works of previous evidence the inquiry had heard about Molefe’s controversial appointment as boss of the power utility.

The inquiry had previously heard from businessman Hank Bester that he was told by Gupta foot soldier Salim Essa in 2014 that Molefe, then Transnet boss, would move to Eskom at the insistence of the Gupta family.

Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown, who appointed Molefe, also told the inquiry the name was suggested to her by Zuma.

Ramaphosa said he, upon realising government's attempts to turn around the state-owned enterprise were too messy and confusing, approached Zuma and proposed Molefe as the appropriate Mr Fix It. 

That the Guptas had earmarked Molefe for the same position was information to which Ramaphosa was not privy, he said.

“It was a coincidence. My approach to president Zuma was a clear proposal on how best we could resolve challenges Eskom was facing,” he said.

“I had come to know Brian Molefe over years as a truly effective CEO with whom I had worked extremely well. When I made the suggestion, I had no clue of all these issues [the Guptas]. It was purely on the basis of what I knew about his capabilities.

“We needed someone who was effective and could grab Eskom by its scruff and take it forward.”

Had Zuma ever mentioned Molefe as a potential Eskom boss before Ramaphosa did so, asked inquiry chairperson, acting chief justice Raymond Zondo.

“I came up with the name. He [Zuma] did not mention a name. I approached him and said I think we should close the war room. Let us have one person who will run the process of repositioning Eskom and I wanted to be disengaged. I feltBrian Molefe was the name who could do the work.”

“Did it concern you when Molefe was fingered as a Gupta lackey in the public protector report in 2016?” asked evidence leader Pule Seleka SC.

Ramaphosa replied: “That surprised me because I had never connected Mr Molefe in that way with the Gupta family. It became a real concern that here is somebody I held in high regard who got entangled with a family that did what it had done to capture the state.”

Molefe has in his defence when appearing at the state capture inquiry insisted his career advancement was based on merit and not aided by the Gupta family.