brian molefe

Brian Molefe name drops Optimum Coal bigwigs in State Capture tell-all

Andile Sicetsha - 03.03.2021

Brian Molefe doubled down on his claim that Ramaphosa’s greed was the chief reason behind Eskom’s downfall.

Former Eskom Group CEO Brian Molefe finally marked his return to the State Capture Inquiry, on Tuesday, and much like his first appearance, it was a day filled with mystique and bigwig name drops.

Brian Molefe reminds State Capture about the ‘real’ mastermind

Proceedings heated up as soon as Molefe took his seat to revise his January testimony. Before the inquiry’s evidence leader Advocate Pule Seleka could get through his summary, the former CEO butted in to remind the commission of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s role in the demise of Eskom.

Molefe had, in January, implicated the president as the mastermind behind a plundered deal between Eskom and Optimum Coal Mine (OCM). In Molefe’s words, Ramaphosa had been ‘strategically’ placed as chairperson of OCM in 2011, with a 9% stake in the company.

His use, Molefe alleged, came into play in 2014 when OCM initiated contract negotiations with Eskom, requesting a R530 per-ton-of-coal price increase and a waiver of R2 billion penalties accrued from failure to meet the supply agreement.

“What Optimum was putting on the table was preposterous and illegal because we had an existing agreement that they would pay us (Eskom) R150 for coal until 2018. To very (sp) that, to the disadvantage of Eskom, would have required me to break provisions of the PFMA (Public Finance Management Act),” Molefe explained, on Tuesday.

The former CEO doubled down on his decision to not entertain contract negotiations with OCM. He indicated that the Ramaphosa-chaired company had placed its foot on Eskom’s neck at a time when loadshedding was dismantling the power utility.

Molefe went as far as hinting that the advent of rotational power cuts that continue to plunge South Africa into darkness, till this day, may have been a plan orchestrated by OCM to corner Eskom into signing this ‘preposterous’ agreement.

“Chairperson, I have a feeling that if I had signed that agreement, or agreed to OCM’s request, we would be sitting in this commission – or a similar commission – where you would be asking me, ‘but Mr Molefe, if you had an agreement for R150, what was it that drove you to increase — agree to this ridiculous increase — that has now collapsed Eskom,” Molefe said.

The bigwigs he name-dropped

The commission assured the former Eskom CEO that every name he’s implicated in his testimony — including Ramaphosa — has been contacted for a response and thus far, only former Glencore CEO Clinton Ephron has submitted an affidavit.

This didn’t satisfy Molefe since, in his words, Ephron was a mere messenger of the bigwigs who sat above him, the likes of Ramaphosa and Glencore/OCM topgun Ivan Glasenberg.

“This strategy had gone beyond Mr Ephron. Mr Glasenberg came to see me about this matter, and it was Mr Glasenberg that had [a] very good relationship with the chairperson of Optimum (Ramaphosa) before he became deputy president. So, Mr Ephron will come and give you a technical analysis but, my feeling was that… in the greater scheme of what was happening, he was a little less significant than the people at the top,” he added.

Advised to explore this shoddy deal further, DCJ Raymond Zondo indicated that the commission has been in touch with Glasenberg, who resides in Switzerland, on possibly contributing to the inquiry.

This, he said, was hampered by difficulties in travelling due to the pandemic Zondo, however, hinted that arrangements could be made to accommodate Glasenberg’s virtual testimony if time allows.

At this time, it remains unclear if, indeed, he will be making an appearance. Ephron has been confirmed as a future witness, while Ramaphosa has yet to issue his notice to the commission.