Gupta comeback rumours reach SA – Samantha Graham-Maré

There are rumours that the Guptas could be the “secret” funder of the R16-billion Smart Meter programme of Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa. This has been revealed to BizNews by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Electricity, Samantha Graham-Maré, who has been struggling since July to identify the mystery funder. “I have had people contact me from as far as Dubai after our last discussion to say that they are of the opinion that it might be the Guptas who are the mystery funders…they were just saying that they had encountered the Guptas in Dubai, seen them sort of having coffee with various role players, and that smart meters were a big element of demand-side management in Dubai, and as such felt that perhaps they were keen on transferring the technology to South Africa.” Meanwhile, the DA has petitioned the ESKOM System Operator to investigate what appears to be a growing trend to issue misleading load-shedding advisories. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 00:21 – The load-shedding over the past weekend
  • 01:18 – What has been done about it?
  • 02:30 – Eskoms medium term reports and biggest concerns for the future
  • 03:49 – Impending blackout rumours
  • 05:15 – What is happening at public hearings?
  • 06:17 – Answers from Minister Gordhan
  • 07:06 – The Guptas
  • 07:50 – Rumours that the Guptas are funding the smart meter project
  • 07:59 – Conclusions 

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Highlights from the interview

There are rumours that the Guptas could be the “secret” funder of the R16-billion Smart Meter programme of Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa.

This has been revealed to BizNews by the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Electricity, Samantha Graham-Maré, who has been struggling since July to identify the mystery funder.

A Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) request to the minister has been ignored, and subsequent Parliamentary questions to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan still have to be answered.

“…I haven’t received any response yet and I will definitely let you know when I do and I will certainly be happy to share the information. I have had people contact me from as far as Dubai after our last discussion to say that they are of the opinion that it might be the Guptas who are the mystery funders. So I thought that was an interesting take on it and certainly something we will look into.”

She adds: “…there’s a lot of concern around the smart meters. I’ve had a number of people get in touch with me since our interview to express their concern, express deep dissatisfaction with the process. So it’s not something that we’re going to leave. We will continue to push on that.”

Asked for more detail on the Gupta rumours passed on to her, Graham-Mare says: “…essentially they were just saying that they had encountered the Guptas in Dubai, seen them sort of having coffee with various role players, and that smart meters were a big element of demand-side management in Dubai, and as such felt that perhaps they were keen on transferring the technology to South Africa.

“So, you know, you never know. For this government, you have no idea what will come next. So as I say, it’s just a name that’s been thrown at me. We have no evidence of it, but it’s certainly an avenue worth pursuing.”

While Graham-Mare notes that this could be “absolute conspiracy theories at its best”, she adds “…you can never put anything past this government”.

Meanwhile, the DA has petitioned the ESKOM System Operator to investigate what appears to be a growing trend to issue misleading load-shedding advisories.

Commenting on the past weekend’s schedules, she says: “There are sort of two different reports coming in. The one is that Eskom under-reported on the load shedding and that instead of reporting that they were load shedding at Stage Eight, they were actually reporting that they were load shedding at Stage Six. Other news that came through this morning indicated that Joburg City Council were responsible for the load shedding and that they had overload-shed in areas in Gauteng. 

“But it’s not the first time that we’ve had reports of underreporting on load shedding. There was actually a study that was done earlier on in the year and out of 52 days of load shedding it appeared that they had…underreported on about 40 of those days, which means that there are a substantial number of days where there are underreporting. So they’re saying we’re at Stage Two and they’re actually load shedding at Stage Three, which is problematic.

“We have a trust deficit with ESKOM and with government at the moment as it is. To find out now that they are misleading us in terms of the low-shedding schedules is deeply concerning.”

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