'Zuma used fake intel to cull Eskom execs'

21 May 2017 - 02:02 By MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA and SABELO SKITI

President Jacob Zuma is said to have used a "devious" intelligence report compiled by Duduzane, his son, to effect the suspensions of four top Eskom executives in 2015.

The move paved the way for Brian Molefe's first posting to Eskom as its CEO and came months after Gupta associate Salim Essa's efforts to score Trillian's first contract at the power utility had fallen flat.

Were Essa to have been successful, Trillian would have netted R400-million from Eskom.

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A day after the suspensions were announced, the Gupta-owned Tegeta signed its first coal-supply contract with Eskom - a R400-million-a-year, 10-year deal at the company's Brakfontein mine.

A National Treasury investigation has found that Eskom's leadership ignored evidence that the coal from Brakfontein was out of specification, according to a draft report emanating from a review of the power utility's coal-supply agreements.

Duduzane holds shares in Gupta companies including Oakbay, which owns Tegeta.

Zuma's office said this week the president did not involve himself in "HR matters of state-owned companies", but sources with intimate knowledge of the incident said that Zuma used the "intelligence" report to instruct Zola Tsotsi, who was the Eskom board chairman, to suspend CEO Tshediso Matona, finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital executive Dan Marokane and commercial and technology executive Matshela Koko.

The report was never made public. In it, the affected Eskom executives were accused of being involved in causing load-shedding to make Zuma look bad and trigger his recall at the ANC national general council in October 2015.

Tsotsi resigned as Eskom chairman less than three weeks after the suspensions.

An independent inquiry cleared the executives, and three were given multimillion-rand golden handshakes.

Koko stayed on and became group executive for generation.

The Sunday Times has learnt that Zuma summoned Tsotsi to his private residence in Durban in February 2015, when the president ordered the Eskom chairman to suspend the four executives.

SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni and business consultant Nick Linnell were also allegedly present at the meeting.

The information has come to light as a storm rages about Zuma's reliance on a two-page, poorly written "intelligence" report to fire Pravin Gordhan and Mcebisi Jonas two months ago.

block_quotes_start We were made aware that Duduzane had compiled the devious report that was used to suspend us block_quotes_end

Some top ANC leaders and the SACP have previously confirmed that Zuma informed them he had intelligence that Gordhan was using an international investor roadshow to meet foreign forces intent on toppling the president.

A former labour leader, who asked not to be named, this week recalled how, at the time of the suspensions, some of the executives spoke about the use of the intelligence report.

"Some of them repeated their concerns when it became apparent [Gordhan] was removed under the same circumstances," he said this week.

One of the Eskom executives, who asked not to be named, told the Sunday Times this week he was aware they had been suspended based on a "so-called" intelligence report.

"We were made aware that Duduzane had compiled the devious report that was used to suspend us.

"An independent inquiry proved that we were innocent and had nothing to do with load-shedding," he said.

"The saddest part is that most of us spent hours working around the clock to avoid any load-shedding, then we get accused of being behind it."

The executive also said he was told their suspensions happened after Tsotsi's visit to Zuma.

He said it wasn't surprising that Linnell had initially been appointed to head the inquiry against them.

"Linnell's appointment was later reversed after the board felt that Tsotsi unilaterally appointed him without following the right procedures. Little did they know that he was following orders from above."

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Linnell has also conducted investigations for Myeni at SAA.

Eskom board spokesman Khulani Qoma yesterday refused to give reasons why Tsotsi suspended the four executives in 2015.

"The reasons for the suspensions are a matter of public record. Chairman Dr [Ben] Ngubane isn't aware of the alleged meeting between Mr Tsotsi and the president."

Bongani Ngqulunga, Zuma's spokesman, yesterday said: "The Presidency is unaware of the meeting ... The president receives intelligence reports from authorised state agencies, not from individuals.

"Finally, the president does not get involved in HR matters of state-owned companies ..."

Myeni asked for further details on the meeting, saying her focus was on SAA and she was not involved in Eskom's operations.

"Kindly familiarise yourself with the law so that you're not misled into thinking decisions to suspend employees can be taken willy-nilly," she said.

Linnell and Duduzane did not respond to calls and SMSes.

mzilikazi@sundaytimes.co.za and skitis@sundaytimes.co.za

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