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Lynne Brown Should Resign Over Claims She "Took Instructions" From The Guptas At Eskom, Says DA

"Minister Brown has been telling South Africans that she isn't wet, in spite of the fact that she is fully submerged under water."

14/11/2017 17:10 SAST | Updated 15/11/2017 07:00 SAST
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Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown should resign after allegations made at a parliamentary inquiry that she took instructions from the Gupta brothers, DA MP Natasha Mazzone told HuffPost SA.

"If she had any conscience, she would resign. But certainly the president should put her on immediate suspension, pending the outcome of a very serious investigation. But to think that she's allowed to carry on as minister of public enterprises is not only mind boggling, it makes no business sense whatsoever," she said.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has been "captured" by the Guptas, Eskom spokesman Khulani Qoma told MPs on Tuesday.

In testimony delivered before the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, he revealed how acting Eskom board chairman Zethembe Khoza had told him earlier this year that Brown had intervened to block the suspension of the utility's then acting CEO Matshela Koko.

To think that she's allowed to carry on as minister of public enterprises is not only mind boggling, it makes no business sense whatsoever.

Qoma said he had met Khoza at his (Khoza's) home on June 17, to discuss a proposal to suspend both Koko and Eskom chief financial officer Anoj Singh.

"He [Khoza] told me that while he agreed with my proposal, it would be lucky if it succeeded. I asked him why, and he said because Minister Brown is captured. He then explained that 'Minister Brown reports to the Guptas'."

Qoma said Khoza had also told him that former Eskom board chairman Ben Ngubane had come very close to suspending Koko, but had "been stopped in his tracks by Minister Brown".

Earlier this year, Ngubane had received a list of allegations of corruption against Koko, and called a quick board meeting to discuss the matter. The board had agreed to the suspension, and Koko was told to make himself available.

"Just before Dr Ngubane called Koko in to suspend him, he [Khoza] sneaked out to 'make a call to a G-brother'. I understood that to mean a Gupta brother."

A "G-brother" had then "instructed Minister Brown to cancel the suspension", which Dr Ngubane dutifully cancelled.

Qoma said Ngubane had later confirmed to him Khoza's narrative, and "that he indeed received a call from Minister Brown to not go ahead with the suspension".

He then explained that 'Minister Brown reports to the Guptas'.

In a statement tabled at the inquiry on Tuesday, Qoma said Khoza, at the same June 17 meeting, had also explained to him "the extent to which she [Brown] was captured" and took instructions from the Guptas.

"He [Khoza] described the new board members, who were due to be announced on June 23, as 'abantwana besikole', which loosely translated means 'school kids'. He said that they had been appointed by the G-brothers."

Qoma, a communications expert who was appointed at Eskom on December 1 last year, with a mandate to rescue the utility's battered reputation in the wake of the Public Protector's State of Capture report, said Brown's strategy of claiming "I was lied to" and "I didn't know" was a public admission of incompetence.

"Across the entire saga of state capture, Minister Brown has been telling South Africans that she isn't wet, in spite of the fact that she is fully submerged under water."

Referring to Koko's appointment as acting Eskom CEO in November last year, Qoma said it had almost made him go back on his decision to join the electricity supplier. He did not understand Brown's decision to appoint someone who was so compromised, and had lied over the controversial prepayment to Tegeta by Eskom.

The DA is gravely concerned about the current state of Eskom's finances, as it is quite clear that the rife corruption and mismanagement at the power utility has resulted in this dire deterioration of its finances.

"The relationship between him [Koko] and the truth does not appear to be quite close," he told the inquiry.

Eskom is facing a liquidity crisis, with only R1.2 billion in its cash reserves until the end of this month, when it should have R20 billion, the inquiry heard.

"The DA is gravely concerned about the current state of Eskom's finances, as it is quite clear that the rife corruption and mismanagement at the power utility has resulted in this dire deterioration of its finances," Mazzone said in a separate statement on Tuesday.

The inquiry into state capture is being conducted by the National Assembly's public enterprises committee.

UPDATE: Brown later denied the allegations in a statement saying, "I do not take instructions from anybody".

**Article updated with Minister Lynne Brown's statement responding to the allegations.