The Public Protector’s State Capture report made public this week has lifted the lid on the close relationship between Eskom boss Brian Molefe and the Gupta brothers, apparently benefiting considerably from their friendship with President Jacob Zuma’s family. Molefe and Ajay Gupta were constantly on the phone to each other between August last year and March this year. Also acting as a go-between was Nazeem Howa, former CEO of the Gupta’s Oakbay Investments. Howa quit recently, citing ill health, though his resignation followed revelations that he had attempted to get finance minister Pravin Gordhan to intervene for Oakbay with commercial banks that were refusing to do business with Oakbay. The report fleshes out allegations about Eskom’s role in effectively helping the Guptas pay for a coal mine. The links between the Gupta family and Eskom add to concerns that the proposed nuclear build programme would mostly feather the nests of the Gupta family and others. The nuclear build programme, if it goes ahead, could cripple the economy, according to many analysts. Molefe has been at pains to emphasise the benefits of the programme and also suggest funding routes through Eskom. Molefe, meanwhile, has also been tipped to replace finance minister Pravin Gordhan, who has been standing his ground against the Gupta family. This week spurious crime charges, aimed at ousting Gordhan, were dropped. – Jackie Cameron
By Pieter-Louis Myburgh and Jeff Wicks
Johannesburg – Former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s long-awaited state capture report includes damning details on the relationship between Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and the controversial Gupta family.
Molefe and Ajay Gupta, the eldest of three Gupta brothers, made 58 telephone calls to one another between August 2015 and March 2016, according to the report, which was released on Wednesday.
Titled “State of Capture”, the document details phone calls between Molefe and Ronica Ragavan, a long-time Gupta associate and recently appointed acting CEO of Oakbay Investments, the family’s main holding company.
According to cellphone tracking records obtained by the protector’s investigators, Molefe was at or near the Guptas’ Saxonwold, Johannesburg, compound 19 times between August 5 and November 17, 2015.
The report details contact between Molefe and Nazeem Howa, Oakbay’s former CEO, and Rajesh “Tony” Gupta, the youngest of the three Gupta siblings.
The time frame of the interactions between Molefe, the Guptas, and their associates is important as it coincides with the acquisition of the Optimum coal mine by the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources.
Part of the controversy about the deal revolves around a pre-payment of more than R600 million that Eskom had approved for coal it would get from Tegeta. This money ostensibly helped the Guptas finance the Optimum deal.
Madonsela’s report highlights “a distinct line of communication between Mr Molefe of Eskom, the Gupta family and directors of their companies in the form of Ms Ragavan and Mr Howa. These links cannot be ignored as Mr Molefe did not declare his relationship with the Guptas.”
The report highlights the fact that Ragavan called Molefe on April 11 this year, the same day when Eskom’s pre-payment was granted to Tegeta.
Molefe told News24 he first wanted to see the report himself before commenting.
“Right now I am not comfortable saying anything about this,” he said. – News24