‘I believe Eskom deliberately lied about Trillian matter’ - Brown

Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown.
Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has painted state-owned companies as a “battleground” for ANC factional battles‚ opposition parties and the media.

Brown‚ who has raised concerns about Parliament's inquiry into state capture‚ said she had appeared before the committee despite legal advice not to do so.

She said “cleaning up the SOCs is of secondary importance to using the trouble they’re in to achieve short-term political and business objectives – regardless of the cost to the company or country”.

“And because there’s no time to wait for investigations by law enforcement agencies following due legal process – the word is that they have all been compromised‚ anyway – the information is constantly regurgitated as if repeating it often enough will prove that it is true.

“The same allegations levelled against the same group of individuals goes around and around‚ destroying the reputations of companies that form the spine and ribs of our economy – and people who have been associated with them‚ including me‚” she said.

Brown has been the subject of much negative testimony in the committee. Before her appearance former board chair Zola Tsotsi made claims that he had met Tony Gupta and Salim Essa at her home where they discussed board assignments.

Brown denied the claims saying “I have never consulted with anyone on my executive functions. Not Tony Gupta or Salim Essa or anyone else. Why would I hand over my functions to anyone else?”

Brown however admitted that Eskom officials had on more than one occasion misled her‚ and manipulated her into lying to Parliament for which she faces sanctions by the Public Protector and Parliament's ethics committee.

“Like most human beings I’ve heard of‚ there is some stuff I know‚ some stuff I don’t know and some stuff I should know but don't. Then‚ my dealings with Eskom have taught me‚ there is stuff I thought I knew because someone had misinformed me – and some stuff that is difficult to know because it is being actively concealed‚” Brown said.

She said the problem had started with Brian Molefe's pension.

“Until then‚ the questions that I asked Eskom had received plausible answers. But when I intervened to ask the Board to come to a more appropriate arrangement it opened a can of worms.”

She said soon after that‚ there had been media reports regarding the pre-payments to Trillian.

“This information directly contradicted the response Eskom had given me when the matter was raised in a Parliamentary question in December 2016. (The payments had not come to me for approval‚ so I was reliant on Eskom for accurate information.) It became clear that I had been manipulated into lying to Parliament‚” she said.

“I believe that Eskom deliberately lied to me about the Trillian matter. It was not a matter that came to me at any stage for approval. When I became aware of it through a Parliamentary Question‚ followed by media reports‚ I took immediate corrective action.”.

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