'Guptas counted on Dlamini-Zuma victory to save Brian Molefe'
The Gupta family put their money on Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma winning the ANC presidency at the party's 2017 Nasrec conference to bring Brian Molefe back to the helm of Eskom.
This is according to evidence led by former Eskom company secretary and head of legal, Suzanne Daniels, at the state capture inquiry on Tuesday.
Daniels laid bare an incident at Melrose Arch in Johannesburg in July 2017 when she met Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma (son of former president Jacob Zuma) and Ben Martins, who was then deputy minister of public enterprises.
At the time of the meeting, Molefe had taken Eskom to court seeking an order declaring his dismissal unlawful. He was dismissed in June after being controversially reappointed as CEO in May. He had resigned in late 2016 after the public protector's state of capture report.
Daniels said she had received a call from Gupta associate Salim Essa to “meet for coffee” at the African Pride Hotel.
When she arrived at the venue, Essa asked her to take a walk and she obliged.
She thought they were walking to offices close by where she had met Essa before, but this time, they were heading to an apartment.
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“Mr Essa opened the door and we walked into a lounge. In this room was Ajay Gupta, Duduzane Zuma, minister Ben Martins and an Asian lady whose name I cannot remember. I was in total shock over what I walked into,” said Daniels.
Daniels said Essa introduced her to Gupta and Zuma, and she greeted Martins, whom she knew.
“Salim Essa gestured to Mr Gupta, saying, 'tell him what happened to Mr Molefe's case'.
“I said we are going to the deputy judge president's office next month [August], and we would be discussing the case management of the case.
“Mr Gupta then responded to the people in the room, saying we would need to find someone in the deputy judge president’s office to move this case out.”
Gupta was apparently not pleased that Daniels was not being helpful.
Daniels testified: “He said this matter would be easy to deal with when Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma comes into power, and I realised at that moment that whatever scepticism I had about the Guptas' influence, I did not need much evidence.”
Daniels said Gupta then became dismissive of her and she was escorted out of the apartment by Essa.
A month before this event, Daniels testified, Essa had offered her R800m to help get Matshela Koko returned as acting Eskom CEO after he had been suspended.
This event, she said, took place at a petrol station not far from Eskom's head office.
It was a day after the Eskom board had a meeting to deliberate on Koko's conflict of interest, flagged after a company in which his stepdaughter featured had scored a contract with the power utility.
At that meeting, because Koko was on suspension, most of the board members were pushing for his return, but Daniels had objected, leading to the meeting with Essa at the filling station.
“I go to the filling station and a black Maserati pulls up next to me. It was Mr Salim Essa, who asked me to pull over to the parking lot” said Daniels. “He says to me: 'why are you not supporting the return of Matshela Koko?' And I said the man is not fit to be CEO.
“I was taken aback that he could recite verbatim what I had said at the meeting. I was shocked.”
Daniels said she told Essa there was no chance Koko was going to return as Eskom CEO.
“Mr Essa said I have for you R800m if you help us,” she said.
“I said, 'do not be ridiculous', and I burst out laughing. I went to my car and drove away.
“I was shocked.”
Former Eskom secretary and senior manager Suzanne Daniels took the stand at the state capture inquiry on September 15 2020. She testified about how former company acting CEO Matshela Koko introduced her to the Gupta family's "foot soldier", businessman Salim Essa, in 2015. She alleged Essa introduced himself as the adviser to then-minister of public enterprises, Lynne Brown.