Ex-Eskom chair denies chief state capture specialist Brian Molefe was Gupta placement, says he was rarely skilled

The Zondo Commission has once more been caught in a rigmarole around how Brian Molefe was appointed Eskom CEO in 2015. According to Henk Bester, former managing director of rail at engineering firm Hatch Global, Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa boasted in a meeting that Brian Molefe would head up Eskom. Essa made this prediction in 2014, exactly a year before Molefe was appointed. According to Bester, Essa said the Guptas had immense power and could appoint executives to do their bidding at parastatals as they pleased. “They had decided Molefe was going to be the CEO of Eskom. You will see the power that we have,” Bester recalled Essa telling the meeting. From July 2011 to 2016, Molefe would frequent the Gupta compound, his former driver testified at the Zondo Commission. At times, Molefe would meet the Guptas at hotels with his driver finding bags stuffed with cash. – Bernice Maune 

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By Bernice Maune 

How did Brian Molefe secure the role of Eskom CEO? This question has hung heavily at the Zondo Commission as Judge Ray Zondo seeks to determine how the former Transnet CEO was seconded to the power utility.

According to former Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, Molefe’s appointment was negotiated through the boards of Transnet and Eskom. Anoj Singh, who was the Transnet CFO was also seconded. Later, Singh would be implicated in being a Gupta frontman, approving deals worth billions for their Tegeta Resources company and bailing Optimum Coal Mine, by securing a guarantee through Eskom’s coffers.

“The Transnet and Eskom boards negotiated discreetly the transfer of Mr Brian Molefe and Mr Anoj Singh to Eskom. My role as the shareholder representative was to approve the negotiated outcomes,” read Brown’s affidavit.

Dr Ben Ngubane, former Eskom chairperson said it was Brown who first mentioned Molefe’s name. He believed Molefe was the best person for the job as he was well skilled and capable.

“In the black community there are few people who have the capabilities of Brian Molefe. This is a problem because when you fixate on those few at the top… there was a saying when BEE came in that all the same scoundrels were getting all the deals… It would be easy to predict someone’s trajectory based on their capabilities. Sometimes you get to a point where the same people with Molefe’s skills and capabilities circulate in top positions from one government department to the other,” said Ngubane.

Ngubane then went on to list how he was asked by former presidents Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki to serve as Premier of KZN, to become an ambassador to Japan and to serve as the chairman of the Land Bank and SABC.

“What I’m trying to say is that you get to a point where the same people circulate in the organisation. So I’m not surprised someone with Brian’s capabilities would be touted for the position,” Ngubane exclaimed.

Molefe was allegedly a Gupta placement, approving contracts that favoured the Guptas. According to Molefe, there was nothing wrong with meeting the Guptas on several occasions. Since his resignation in 2016, the former super bureaucrat has been left in the corporate wilderness.

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Watch Dr Ben Ngubane’s testimony at the Zondo Commission below.