Threats pile up from Eskom inquiry

"Your mother is making our lives difficult."

That was the chilling message relayed to ANC MP Zukiswa Rantho’s son this week, a day after Rantho chaired a heated session of the parliamentary inquiry into governance failures at Eskom.

Rantho, who lives in Cape Town when Parliament is in session, told City Press that she received a frantic call from her 17-year-old son after a black Golf GTi accosted him, relayed the message and drove off on Thursday afternoon.

Rantho has been acting chairperson of the National Assembly’s public enterprises oversight committee since early this year and has been chairing the inquiry into state-owned companies, which kicked off last month.

This week, MPs on the portfolio committee conducting the probe into Eskom heard explosive testimony from the power utility’s former board chairperson Zola Tsotsi, who implicated President Jacob Zuma in the capture of Eskom.

They also heard from former Eskom boss Brian Molefe and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, who denied any links with the controversial Gupta family.

While Rantho has notified ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu about the threats, she says she does not know their source or what to make of them.

Describing the call from her teenage son, she said: “When he called me, he asked: ‘Mama, do you owe any person money because there is this gentleman who told me this.’

“I don’t take it as a threat – I don’t know how to take it. I think it’s people who want us to stop the inquiry.

“They probably want to disturb the process. It’s not that they want to cause any harm. But you will never know with people,” she said yesterday.

Rantho explained that her children live with their father in Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape, while she lives in Cape Town.

“I am here at home [Aliwal North] now and I am trying to check if their lives are okay and what is going on.

“But I haven’t seen anything that makes me worry for now,” she said, adding that she would be reporting the matter to the police.

Rantho said she had not received any threats herself and that the message to her son could be about anything.

“There are many things that are happening, especially now, going to the conference, but I don’t want to speculate,” she said.

“It’s even worse because the Wednesday session was very bad.”

This was not the first such incident for the Rantho family.

The ANC MP revealed that around June or July, her husband was followed while driving her car, and when he confronted the occupants of the other vehicle, they backed off.

Mthembu confirmed that Rantho had told him about the threat to her child.

Last week, the Sunday Times reported that State Security Minister Bongani Bongo had attempted to bribe inquiry evidence leader Ntuthuzelo Vanara.

Vanara, who is an advocate and the acting registrar of MPs’ interests, has also received threats that he should withdraw from the inquiry or he will be reported to the Law Society of SA.

Meanwhile, the cabal of ANC MPs opposed to the ongoing parliamentary inquiry into governance failures at Eskom has been trying to get an audience with National Speaker Baleka Mbete in an attempt to defend their peer, Bongo.

On Tuesday, Parliament will debate state capture and the importance of having a parliamentary investigation.

In the past week, denials and more denials were the order of the day as the parliamentary inquiry heard testimony from parties implicated in the mess at the embattled power utility.

Former Eskom board members Venete Klein and Viroshini Naidoo were up first on Tuesday, and denied any knowledge of the links between Eskom and the controversial Gupta family.

In her testimony under cross-examination, Klein revealed that the R600m payment made to the company Tegeta and the pension payout made to the Eskom pension fund for Molefe were inconsistent with the Eskom board resolutions.

Klein said the money paid to Tegeta was supposed to buy coal, not to act as guarantee for the company to buy Optimum coal mine.

Tempers rose when Molefe took the hot seat at the inquiry.

He maintained that the payment to Tegeta was for coal, but also said that he was not part of the meeting where this matter was discussed, adding: “This didn’t mean I knew nothing about it.”

He claimed not to have known that Eskom was doing business with the Gupta-linked company Trillian.

“In Eskom, there are millions, billions actually, of decisions that get taken on a daily basis by Eskom employees that do not require the chief executive officer to know about it,” he said, while pleading ignorance.

Molefe said he could not remember a range of other matters, including whether he declared his interests when he became an MP in February – which included his retirement income from Eskom.

This disclosure is a requirement as per Parliament’s code of ethics for MPs.

He claimed that he did not even know whether Parliament paid him a pension for his short stint as an MP.

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