By Bernice Maune
Testimony by a senior figure at Eskom at the Zondo Commission has exposed how ex-SAA chairperson Dudu Myeni and her advisor, Nicholas Linell, were instrumental in setting up Eskom contracts for the Gupta families with the blessing of former president Jacob Zuma.
In his testimony, given at the Zondo Commission on State Capture, Zola Tsotsi explained how he had met Myeni and Linell at Zuma’s Nkandla residence in KwaZulu-Natal on 8 March 2015.
According to Tsotsi, he was given instructions by Linell and Myeni on how he should suspend four Eskom executives including the CEO, financial director and CFO. Myeni led the meeting which was attended by her son, Thalente, and a man named Jabu Maswanganyi. However, Tsotsi says he has no recollection of meeting Maswanganyi.
In Linell’s affidavit, he states Maswanganyi had a dossier containing confidential information consisting of Eskom financial statements, policies and other documentation. He allegedly received this dossier from insiders at Eskom, who are yet to be named.
Myeni and Linell’s roles have become more clear as, according to Linell’s affidavit, he details how she arranged meetings between him, Zuma and Tsotsi.
“I attended a meeting in Durban on Sunday, 8 March 2015. When I arrived at the residence, Mr Tsotsi and Dudu Myeni were there. In attendance was also Ms Myeni’s son and another person introduced as Jabu. At that time I knew nothing about Jabu’s role at large. While Ms Myeni’s son played no active role in the meeting, Jabu provided information on the state of Eskom including allegations of wrongdoing and reasons for business failure – some of which was in the public domain.
Adv Seleka now reads from the Statement of Mr Nicholus Hugh Linnell where he says he had attended the same meeting in Durban on Sunday 8 March 2015.#StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) September 8, 2020
“The group at the meeting referred to above discussed the intended inquiry: how it would take place and what it would seek to achieve. After a period, we joined the president. The president was clearly familiar with the purpose of the meeting and we provided a summary of what was proposed… These included a number of set principles,” wrote Linell in his affidavit.
However, on his statement Mr Linnell says there was Ms Myeni's son, and another person introduced as "Jabu" which he says at the time did't know anything about Jabu's role.#StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) September 8, 2020
On the subject of the meetings facilitated by Myeni to discuss the sacking of Eskom officials, Tsotsi said Myeni was merely conveying ideas she had been given.
“Whilst Miss Myeni is not the architect of this idea, she is now the exponent of it. She has communicated an idea which has been given to her. From that perspective, she can be seen to be the person initiating the process. After all we haven’t heard from the original architects of this, in my view,” said Tsotsi.
Later on in his testimony, the evidence leader refers to Linell’s affidavit in which he states he was invited to meetings at the presidency. Linell admits that he had a prior working relationship with Myeni at SAA. He describes the former SAA chairperson as a client of his. Zuma was apparently concerned about the state of Eskom and trusted Myeni as his aide together with Linell to orchestrate an investigation into the utility.
“It’s strange that the president has issues that he’s discussing with the chairperson of SAA. He is not discussing them with the president of the Eskom board,” commented chairperson Raymond Zondo.
“Indeed, it is strange,” Tsotsi added.
“The chairperson of SAA is co-ordinating meetings to discuss various issues. He (Zuma) calls Mr Linell and he calls you. At the meeting she (Myeni) is the one doing the talking at the meeting,” Zondo said.
Linell is set to attend the commission to expand on the work he did for SAA and Eskom. It is not clear how the former Zimbabwean lawyer met Myeni, but according to City Press – he was appointed by Myeni at R167,000 a month to advise her on the legal and corporate affairs of the company. He would eventually write press statements, review forensic and legal reports and give input on cases involving officials that were undergoing suspension.
Linell enjoyed a close relationship with Myeni and he was often the only person able to call her directly and receive direct instruction from her, an insider told City Press. In addition, it appears Linell was roped into ‘fix’ Eskom together with Myeni by taking orders from the Guptas and implementing this through to Tsotsi. This was done to place Gupta affiliated members on the Eskom board to approve contracts worth billions that they had stakes in and sometimes owned.
In an interview with BizNews founder Alec Hogg in 2017, forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan shed more light on Linell and Myeni’s involvement in state entities. An extract is below. Read the full interview here.
Alec Hogg: The interesting part about all of this, as you say, is that there is a ‘smoking gun’ now, but by the same token, how do we know that Zola Tsotsi, the chairman, is actually telling the truth? That’s got to be the crux to all of this.
Paul O’ Sullivan: Now, Nick Linnell is the ‘Mr Fix-It’ for Dudu Myeni. Every time she gets into trouble Nick Linnell has been running around trying to put out fires and that includes at the Water Board in Richards Bay, at SA Airways, and as we now know, here he’s been assisting her in bullying the chairman of Eskom and he pulled it off. He makes it clear that Nick Linnell actually drew up the suspension letters, which he then served on those three individuals.
You say he’s not a lawyer. What exactly is he, apart from being a Mr Fix-It?
He was a lawyer in Zimbabwe, at that stage it was Rhodesia, and he, in fact, was a magistrate in Rhodesia.
So, he has legal training of some sort?
Oh yes, he absolutely has legal training but he’s not registered with the Law Society. I’ve checked and he’s not registered so, he shouldn’t be going to meetings and referring to himself as a lawyer. Now, the other point of concern is this. She engaged his services whilst she was running the Water Board and she paid for his services from that Water Board. She then engaged his services and paid him R167 000 a month without any employment contract and without any procurement processes being followed whatsoever at SA Airways. What did he do? He worked together with Dudu Myeni instructing a law firm, ENSafrica, in bringing false charges against the then CEO of SA Airways, Monwabisi Kalawe. In fact, the law firm didn’t only do that. They went after all the executives that she wanted to remove from SA Airways so that she could have her dirty hands on the tender processes of SA Airways. As you know, OUTA brought an application to stop her from paying R256m to BnP Capital last year and it just goes on and on.