If President Cyril Ramaphosa was not already feeling the pressure to reshuffle his Cabinet – which critics see as having being party to state capture under former president Jacob Zuma – the Public Protector on Thursday handed him something to mull over when she gave him 14 days to take action against Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown whom she found guilty of misleading Parliament.
This mounting pressure came as a result of a report from the Public Protector addressed to the Democratic Alliance’s public enterprises spokesperson Natasha Mazzone – who lodged a complaint with her office over Brown’s violation of the executive ethics code. The report substantiated Mazzone’s claims that Brown had misled Parliament when she failed to disclose contracts of engagement between Eskom and Gupta-linked Trillian.
“In her deliberate or inadvertent misleading statement to the National Assembly, Brown demonstrated a gross negligence of her duties and a lack of any form of regard towards the executive members’ ethics act,” it said.
Brown however disputes this, claiming that she herself was deliberately misled by senior Eskom officials, including Eskom former chief financial officer and Gupta-linked Anoj Singh. After realising this, Brown said she “immediately informed the Parliament ethics committee and the Public Protector of the false information.”
Mazzone said: “Minister Brown, in response to a DA parliamentary question, denied that there had been an agreement between Eskom and Trillian. However, [investigative journalism unit] amaBhungane later established that either Trillian or a subsidiary company had, at the time of the reply, already invoiced Eskom for R266 million.”
Within days of Brown’s misleading statement in December 2016 Trillian was understood to have invoiced Eskom for another R153 million.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse dismissed the claim that Brown inadvertently misled the National Assembly saying: “Inadvertently? Don’t think so. Minister Lynne Brown was part and parcel of the Gupta looting – she knew and did nothing.”
Although the Hawk’s press conference held on Friday did not directly apply more pressure on Ramaphosa, it revealed that Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who is among many expected to be reshuffled, might still see his day in court. Hawks acting head Yolisa Matakata made it clear that the eight arrests made thus far in relation to the Estina investigation “were just phase one” of their investigations into state capture and more arrests were eminent.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane beseeched Ramaphosa: “Mr President, show South Africa that you are really serious about fighting corruption in your party and fire: Lynne Brown, Mosebenzi Zwane, Bathabile Dlamini, Faith Muthambi, Malusi Gigaba, Des van Rooyen, David Mahlobo, Bongani Bongo.”
When reached for comment on the likely action taken by the president given the Public Protector’s report or if or when a reshuffle might be happening, the Presidency’s acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale was unavailable for comment.
Ramaphosa however, made it clear in his reply to the debate on the state of the nation that he would make a decision when he is ready and would not be pressured into a reshuffle by anyone.
“In the matter of composition of the Cabinet, an announcement will be made by the president at an appropriate time. Don’t go ahead of yourselves. I can assure you when it is addressed, it will be addressed very carefully without any noisy interventions”.