Pravin Gordhan fumes about Eskom at Chiba memorial

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin GordhanPHOTO: Mpumelelo Buthelezi
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin GordhanPHOTO: Mpumelelo Buthelezi

The struggle is far from over and today the country is going to need people who will be courageous enough to speak out because it is about time we said eight years of corruption is enough.

This was the rallying call by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan yesterday as he gave a rousing tribute to the life of anti-apartheid struggle stalwart Laloo Isu Chiba.

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, together with the SA Communist Party, commemorated the first anniversary of Chiba’s passing at Westpark Cemetery, where a memorial stone was unveiled, near the grave of Kathrada who was Chiba’s political mentor.

Gordhan made pointed remarks regarding state capture, the rampant looting of state-owned enterprises, the Gupta family’s role in fleecing Eskom’s coal supply contracts, and about how the country finds itself in the quagmire of load shedding.

He made sure to reference how these all flew in the face of Chiba’s beliefs and values.

“It’s time now we said a lot more loudly that eight years of corruption, of mismanagement, of breaking the state and breaking key institutions of the state is enough,” Gordhan said.

“We need a real clean-up. If I had more time I’d tell of the rot we found at Denel, Eskom, SAA and Transnet.

“If you use the example of the onion and there’s a rotten layer, no sooner after you’ve taken out that layer, will you find that the second and third, and fourth, and fifth are all as rotten as the first one,” he said.

He continued: “We’ve lost billions of rands through this process … billions that could have been spent on facilities that could have made a real difference in the lives of people.”

Gordhan cites as one example the infamous 1 064 locomotives tender which Transnet issued in 2012.

“The original price of the tender was R36 billion. Then that number changed to R54 billion, so suddenly it’s R18 billion more. Then there was a special commission of R5 billion paid to a company belonging to [Gupta lieutenant] Salim Essa – we are looking for him. R5 billion to do nothing. That’s just one deal we are talking about.”

Regarding Eskom, Gordhan again lambasted the role of the Guptas.

“We saw a graph the other day when I was at Eskom, showing it had almost 30 to 36 days of coal at every single power station up until about 2016/17, but then when the Guptas bought this mine and this Tegeta company came along, and you see the graph goes like that [gesturing a horizontal line] and then when they bought this mine the graph went down, the availability of coal was impacted,” he said.

“So their speciality, together with the management and board of Eskom at that time, was to make sure that the Guptas were the sole suppliers of coal to Eskom and once they controlled that monopoly they could charge them whatever they liked.”

Gordhan said at the time Eskom executives would “have midnight teleconferences to buy coal to the tune of R1 billion from Tegeta or Optimum, or whatever it was called at that particular time”.

“Today if you ask people to buy coal they will tell you it will take them a year.”

Ismail Momoniat, National Treasury deputy director-general, said part of the lesson the country and its leaders needed to take heed of coming out of the period of state capture and looting was “not to rest on our laurels”.

“We need to clean up the country and save our democracy from ourselves … Many of us didn’t speak up at first against corruption.

“When we had an issue of corruption, it’s not that people around didn’t know, it was because people didn’t speak up. We need to ask why the Guptas happened and why they were allowed to abuse us,” he said.

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