Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has come to the defence of the controversial Gupta family, saying they have been tried in a ‘kangaroo court’ and implied they have been subject to a witch hunt.
Speaking at the power utility’s annual results presentation, Molefe took aim at the South African banks that had shut down the Gupta’s company accounts, saying it was a dangerous practice to simply close accounts without giving reasons.
The CEO also gave a veiled accusation of hypocrisy, pointing out that many companies and people who have been criminally charged and convicted of fraud and collusion, still have accounts open at the banks.
The Gupta family has faced public backlash and become the centrepiece in discourse related to “state capture” in the country.
The family has been accused of using its relationship with president Jacob Zuma and his family to secure lucrative government contracts, and influence the appointment of government officials who are loyal to them.
However, the family has no been charged or convicted of any crimes related to these accusations.
“It is a dangerous culture. I have been to Limpopo where people were burnt alive because people were saying they were witches,” Molefe said. “I am interested in the reasons (for closing their accounts).”
It was reported in June that Eskom had “quietly” awarded Gupta-owned mining company Tegeta Exploration a contract worth R564 million, effectively saving the company from business rescue.
Matshela Koko, Eskom’s group executive for generation said that Eskom needed the coal from Tegeta, and Tegeta needed money to get it, blaming the banks closing the Gupta accounts for creating the scenario.
“They required the cash, but their bank account had been closed and they had just made payment to Glencore,” he said.
Molefe assured stakeholders that the deal was completely above board.
The DA’s David Maynier, noted that in May, Molefe reportedly defended the Guptas claiming they were “friendly and likable people”.
However, Brian Molefe seems to conveniently forget the “inconvenient facts” including:
- Atul Gupta and Ajay Gupta are being investigated by the Hawks, for alleged corruption in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004), following the statement by Deputy-Minister of Finance, Mcebisi Jonas, on 16 March 2016; and
- that, although it has not been possible to confirm, indications are that they are also being investigated by the Financial Intelligence Centre and the South African Reserve Bank for allegedly illegally transferring assets, including large amounts of cash, out of South Africa.
“It’s high time Brian Molefe focus on his real job, which is to keep the lights on, rather than his freelance job, which is now defender-in-chief of the Guptas,” Maynier said.