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Brown denies allegations that she allowed influence of the Guptas into SOEs appointments

Siviwe Feketha Political reporter
Lynne Brown
Lynne Brown

Former public enterprises minister Lynne Brown has continued to deny allegations that she had allowed the influence of the Guptas and their associates into the appointment of boards of state-owned companies during her tenure.

Brown returned to the stand at the state capture commission on Monday where she was questioned about the alleged role of Gupta associates in the selection process of board members of SOEs, which was documented in e-mail exchanges between her former private secretary Kim Davids and an infoportal email belonging Gupta associate Salim Essa.

The e-mails had contained CVs of individuals to be considered for board appointment, some which were allegedly appointed without a vetting process.

Brown  stressed that she had not directly received the e-mails from Davids as she sent them to the legal and governance unit of the department, where names were vetted before they were sent to her as a shareholder representative to consider.

Despite Brown’s insistence that she had not been aware that Davids had been receiving CVs of would-be board members from Essa, evidence leader advocate Pule Seleka SC pointed her to one of the e-mails relating to the appointment of engineer Giovanni Leonardi into the Eskom board in 2016, which Davids said she discussed with Brown.

Brown said it was not true that the email containing Giovanni’s CV had come from the Essa, adding that it had come from then Transnet board chairperson Linda Mabaso who had asked her how would “feel about having a foreign person” on the Eskom board.

She pointed out that she had seen Giovanni’s candidacy as good for the Eskom board as he was “an international engineer with experience”.

“That is the one CV she did bring to me,” Brown said.

Seleka, however, pointed out to Brown that the Fundudzi forensic report disputed her claim.

Brown said: “The report made assumption based on a whole number of assumptions without asking me specifically about those, because they had access to me. They sent me a list of questions and I answered the list of questions. That was the first time that I had saw infoportal within my ministry.”

Seleka put it to Brown that it had been established through the report that the Giovanni’s CV had come from Essa and that there was no proof that he had been subjected to shortlisting, screening and vetting processes, as required, before Brown appointed her as a board member.

Brown, however, denied this. “It is untrue. Unless the department said they did not feel that they should vet him. In my mind, I believe that everybody who goes through the process gets vetted.”

Brown said she had received a decision memo from the legal and governance unit which indicated that Giovanni had been vetted.

Brown had also denied allegations that she had threatened to fire former Eskom board chairperson Zola Tsotsi if he did not obey her instructions and that she had invited Tsotsi to her home where Essa and a Gupta brother were present.

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