News24.com | State capture: Eskom’s Tsotsi changes tune on Gupta man’s instruction under Zondo examination

Zola Tsotsi. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo

Zola Tsotsi. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo

Zola Tsotsi. Photo: Lucky Nxumalo

  • Before the State Capture Commission on Friday, former Eskom board chair Zola Tsotsi admitted that he did not ignore a letter sent to him by a Gupta associate as he stated before. 
  • The letter, which was from Salim Essa, contained instructions on how the board’s subcommittees should be constituted. 
  • Essa, a businessman linked to the Gupta family, has featured prominently in the evidence heard by the inquiry.

Former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi – who had stated in his sworn statement ahead of appearing before the State Capture Commission that he “quietly ignored” a letter imposed on him by a Gupta associate on how the board’s subcommittees should be constituted – was on Friday forced to concede he in fact did not ignore the instruction.

In his evidence before the commission on Friday, Tsotsi, who was the Eskom board chair from 2011 to 2015, was made to admit that he did not ignore Salim Essa’s list containing the names of directors who should form the board’s committee.

On 16 December 2014, Essa sent Tsotsi an email allocating committee responsibilities to the members of the new Eskom non-executive directors, in what was an obvious anomaly coming from an outsider.

Tsotsi had told the inquiry headed by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo that he had forwarded that email to Lynne Brown, then minister of public enterprises, in her capacity as the government’s representative in the state-owned power utility.

He also testified that he later sent a follow-up email to Brown with his own list of subcommittee members in January 2015.

Evidence contrasts sharply

However, the evidence contrasts sharply with what he said in the affidavit he filed earlier with the commission, which is investigating claims of corruption in state-owned institutions. In his affidavit he had said he “quietly ignored” Essa’s submission and only sent his own submission to Brown.

Evidence leader Advocate Pule Seleka put it to Tsotsi if he was now seeking to correct what had previously stated in his affidavit, that he had ignored Salim Essa’s submission to him. 

Tsotsi initially claimed that, by claiming he ignored Essa’s submission, he only meant it was “not the final document that would represent the actual formulation [of the board]”, adding that he did not ignore it “in the sense of not having passed it on”.

But Zondo was not satisfied with Tsotsi’s explanation, arguing that there can’t be two ways around the issue, and that he either he ignored it or not, and there could be no double meaning to his action.

“There aren’t two meanings about ignoring something. There is only one meaning, ignoring something is to nothing about it,” he said, leading Tsotsi to assent to Zondo’s interpretation.

“Here, you did not do nothing about Mr Essa’s composition, but you did exactly what he had asked you to do, you presented it to the minister as your own.”

“Yes, that is correct,” Tsotsi responded, also conceding to Zondo’s statement that it is incorrect to say that he ignored Essa’s communication.

The ultimate list that was later rubber-stamped by Brown resembled Essa’s initial plan, including the spelling errors, a coincidence that Tsotsi told the commission took him by surprise.

Essa, a businessman linked to the Gupta family, has featured prominently in the evidence heard by the inquiry, including his alleged role in the awarding of lucrative contracts by Eskom and Transnet to companies associated with the controversial family. 

Former Eskom company secretary Suzanne Daniels has earlier testified that Essa had introduced himself as Brown’s advisor when she met him for the first time in 2015, but that claim has not been verified.

Essa is yet to give evidence before the commission.

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