Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo’s State Capture Commission of Inquiry has been hearing unbelievable stories from several board chairpersons. Chairpersons that were the ‘trusted’ custodians of billions of rand of taxpayers’ money. Some blindly followed instructions from the Presidency and its intermediaries, making decisions that Zondo termed as “baffling”.
South African Airways chair, Dudu Myeni, instructed former Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi what to do at the power utility. “The president [Jacob Zuma] came in and sat down and did more listening than anything else and Dudu spoke most of the time,” Tsotsi informed the commission. Zondo replied: “Ms Dudu Myeni knew before you came in that the idea was that there should be an inquiry and executives should be suspended [at Eskom].” The meeting in question was Tsotsi’s downfall and made way for Ben Ngubane to take over as the acting chairperson of Eskom. Ngubane allegedly took instructions from an email simply called “businessman”, which he denied belonged to Salim Essa.
“If businessman sends the boards of SOEs this proposal Dr Ngubane accompanied by a letter from the minister, that means businessman is working with the minister to tell the boards what to do and that was Eskom, Transnet, and Denel – all these boards are string along by businessman as the adviser to the minister,” said Advocate Pule Seleka, the commission’s evidence leader. Ngubane replied: “I think there is enough expertise in this country to determine the domain of any email address.”
At Transnet, there were also ‘jokes’ with former board chairperson Mafika Mkwanazi, who agreed to pay millions towards former CEO Siyabonga Gaza’s legal expenses even though the High Court had instructed Gama to pay Transnet. Zondo said: “The question from Ms Tshepe is, ‘if we have a very good case, why are we settling?’ and then the chairperson says ‘we don’t know’.”The tragedy is that every joke had astronomical financial consequences for the taxpayer.