A parliamentary inquiry into Eskom has promised to leave "no stone unturned" in investigating the huge number of allegations of corruption and irregularities surrounding the parastatal.
But there are concerns the committee in charge may beat around the bush in terms of considering the real heart of the state-owned enterprise's problems.
Acting chairperson of the portfolio committee on public enterprises, Daphne Rantho, told MPs on Tuesday that one member of the Gupta family and Duduzane Zuma, the president's son, are only "potential witnesses" who will be called if the committee finds it necessary to do so.
MPs had assumed they would definitely be called to testify, given the alleged role of their irregularities at Eskom.
The Guptas have been fingered for various under-the-carpet deals involving senior officials at the parastatal, resulting in the family allegedly acquiring billions of rands. Duduzane Zuma has allegedly also been influential in these deals.
Here's why the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma should be priority witnesses in the probe into Eskom.
- Media reports alleged that Duduzane had drawn up a spurious intelligence report for his father, which resulted in the removal of previous Eskom chief executive, Tshediso Matona, and three other executives from their posts. This cleared the way for Brian Molefe's appointment as Eskom boss and the subsequent enrichment of the Gupta family and their business partner Salim Essa.
- Gupta-owned company Tegeta acquired Optimum after the mine was forced into business rescue by Brian Molefe, just six months after becoming Eskom CEO. AmaBhungane reported that the family used its network of corporate and political pawns to strong-arm Glencore, which owned Optimum, into a forced sale -- and then syphoned off millions in state-owned company contracts to pay the bill. Tegeta is controlled by the Guptas and ... you guessed it, Duduzane Zuma.
- During Eskom's annual financial results, Eskom's acting board chairperson Zethembe Khoza admitted to paying Gupta-linked company, Trillian, almost R500 million in consultancy fees but denied that they had a direct contract with the company. The funds were for management consulting and advisory services -- work that was allegedly never done.
- The Gupta leaks revealed that the family has received contracts worth about R11.7 billion from Eskom for coal alone. None of these contracts were allegedly awarded at the outcome of a competitive bidding process, and the amount does not include the contracts that Tegeta inherited when it bought Optimum Coal, nor does it include invoices totalling R419 million for management consulting and advisory services delivered to Eskom by Trillian Capital Partners, a company majority owned by Salim Essa.
- AmaBhungane reported that in August last year, former Eskom boss Matshela Koko allegedly handed the Gupta-Zuma-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources a R7-billion coal contract without a tender, ignoring warnings from National Treasury that such a contract could be irregular. The contract is one of three lucrative coal contract extensions that Eskom tried to push to Tegeta over a 15-day period in August last year.