Former Eskom chief executive, Brian Molefe, believes the Zondo Commission will “compromise” its findings if it does not reschedule him to resume his testimony into matters related to the embattled power utility.
In an interview with Pretoria News last week, Molefe’s lawyer, Mpho Molefe, from Molaba Attorneys Incorporated, said his client was “in the dark” about when he would resume his testimony after the commission failed to contact him about the way forward.
This was despite its chairperson, Deputy Justice Raymond Zondo, having completed his self-quarantine and resuming work last week.
Molefe’s testimony was cut short three weeks ago after it emerged that one of Zondo’s staff members had contracted Covid-19.
The commission resumed its work last week with witnesses testifying on matters related to allegations of corruption and the abuse of power for political purposes by the State Security Agency (SSA).
This sparked claims by Molefe’s supporters on social media that the commission was preventing the former Eskom head, who had been accused of having enabled state capture by the Gupta family, from giving his version of events to protect (President Cyril) Ramaphosa and (Public Enterprises Minister Pravin) Gordhan.
“At the moment we are in the dark. We were expecting the commission to come back to us during the course of this week when they finally resumed their duties. They have communicated with us about other matters but not necessarily the issue of Brian to come back to finish his testimony on Eskom issues. So we are still waiting for them. They have not contacted us. We expected them to have contacted us by now. They have not done so. But we hope that they will reschedule his appearance in the not so distant future. We hope so,” said Mpho Molefe.
“If they don’t they would be compromising whatever the commission is trying to do. They would be compromising their findings. It would be up to them to decide whether they want to call him, or whether they don’t want to call him. But if they don’t call him, their findings would be compromised.”
Asked whether his client would consider legal action if the Zondo Commission failed to reschedule him to testify on Eskom matters, Mpho Molefe replied: “At this stage, we don’t have any other choice but to wait. We cannot rush to court now just because he has not yet been called. We don’t know whether they are going to call him or not.”
During his testimony, Molefe implicated Ramaphosa and Gordhan in state capture. The former Eskom chief executive told the commission that Ramaphosa had been involved in state capture and the peddling of political influence for personal benefit.
Molefe told Zondo that Ramaphosa had used his position as the country’s deputy president to protect and secure lucrative coal deals for mining giant Glencore, which later gave him a stake and appointed him chairperson.
He further said Gordhan “brought backload shedding” at Eskom when they took over in 2018, by de-funding and forcing out skilled executives as part of a ploy to collapse the power utility and pave the way for its privatisation.
Commission spokesperson, Reverend Mbuyiselo Stemela, denied accusations that Zondo was preventing or delaying Molefe from completing his testimony into Eskom matters. He said Molefe would be called back to complete his submission at a date yet to be confirmed.
“The commission has listened to the testimonies of many witnesses over the past two and half years who have appeared and reappeared at different times. If the testimony of a witness is not able to be completed during the one or more appearances and other witnesses are planned to appear, the commission has always been able to shift to those who are planned to appear and are ready to do so,” Stemela said.
“It has never ever meant that witnesses who are able to appear but whose appearance is interrupted by one thing or the other are, therefore, excluded from ever having to appear again. There is empirical evidence over the past two and half years that the media may consult to verify. No decision has ever been taken to prevent Mr Brian Molefe to appear to complete his testimony at the commission.
The commission intends to complete Mr Brian Molefe’s appearance and Mr Brian Molefe is ready to return to the commission on a date/dates that the commission will announce as usual.” He added that claims that the commission was delaying Molefe’s further testimony into Eskom to protect Ramaphosa and Gordhan were “unfounded”.
Political and legal expert, Professor Lesiba Teffo, said witnesses whose testimonies were interrupted for whatever reason were not entitled to be rescheduled immediately upon resumption of the commission’s work.
Instead, the commission was allowed by law to use its own discretion.
“Remember, the dates were set for the matter to be heard. Then there was that interruption. But there were others already set up beyond the set dates. If you were to bring him in on dates already allocated to others, you will disrupt the whole system.
That’s generally how case allocation in the magistrate’s office and anywhere else works. Unless you want to politicise it. Once they have given you five days, and for some reasons you cannot [make it], you cannot say give me other people’s dates. That would not be proper,” Teffo added.