How Eskom bosses fed Guptas secret info to bag big business
Through the utility's bosses the family controlled coal supply agreements and media statements, says board chairperson Jabu Mabuza
E-mails between Gupta business associates and former Eskom executives have laid bare the influence the family had over contractual agreements and even media statements issued by the parastatal.
The family and their associates were also made privy to confidential information relating to various programmes within Eskom through which they could score business. The details emerged when Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza appeared before the state capture inquiry on Monday, bringing to a close his time on the stand.
The inquiry heard how former Eskom legal boss Suzanne Daniels allegedly conversed with Gupta business associates Salim Essa and Nazeem Howa to formulate coal supply agreements and draft media statements. Mabuza also detailed how former acting Eskom boss Matshela Koko leaked critical information on internal programmes to Essa via e-mail.
Daniels allegedly received an e-mail from Howa, who ran the Guptas’ OakBay Investments, in March 2016. The e-mail is said to have contained a cession and assignment of coal supply agreements between Eskom and Optimum Coal Mines – which the Guptas bought from Glencore.
Daniels was to attach an Eskom letterhead to the agreement and forward it as though it had been drafted by the parastatal.
Months later, in June, Daniels apparently received a mail from Essa instructing her to make amendments to a draft statement for then Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane. He wanted a line added that said SA’s big four mining companies supply 80% of Eskom’s coal while the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources supplies less than 5%. He said that after this was added he would be “happy that we issue as soon as possible”.
According to Mabuza, Daniels responds: “Okay, will do.”
Mabuza also told the inquiry how Eskom had to approach the courts to access Koko’s computers. E-mails between Koko and Essa dating back to July 20 2015 – the day Koko returned to work after being taken off a four-month suspension – were found. “It’s got to be remembered that in March 2015, Eskom was in the midst of big load shedding at the time. It was in March when four senior executives were suspended from Eskom [Koko was one of the four],” Mabuza told the inquiry.
“Once they were suspended, that also created the possibility for other executives to be brought into Eskom. The 20th of July is significant in the sense that the one executive returned on the day was Matshela Koko.
“We at Eskom hold the view that having being suspended, Koko was brought in and he had to demonstrate his capability and his allegiance to the capturers what he can do.”
Mabuza then described various e-mails between Koko and Essa between 7.56am and 8.01am on July 20.
One of the e-mails Koko forwarded to Essa contained a response from the national treasury directing public entities on how to contain their costs. Only a minute later, Koko sent Essa another document which outlined the approval conditions for Eskom’s Top Engineers Programme.
Five minutes later, Koko forwarded Essa another document which contained a resolution by Eskom’s executive committee on the Top Engineers Programme and presented a business case for it. It also speaks about the external support required to design the project.
It is believed the Guptas used this information to secure R1.6bn in consultancy work from Eskom for global firm McKinsey, with close to 40% of the money going to the family’s Trillian Capital.
“The pattern we are picking up here is on this day, on returning to office, Koko sells this material to Essa to demonstrate to Essa what business opportunities exist in Eskom. This is where certain work was then given to McKinsey, this is how Trillian was inserted to offer the business opportunity,” Mabuza said.
“What should not be lost in this is these were classified documents. These are documents now in the hands of an external party. It now tells the external party this is the opportunity, and when you quote for this job, please do it in these guidelines ... The intention was to create business opportunities for specific people for a specific reason.”
The inquiry will continue on Tuesday with more evidence being led on Eskom.