Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Tuesday sidestepped questions over explosive claims by his predecessor Ngoako Ramatlhodi that Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane had asked him to help the controversial Gupta family take control of Optimum mine.
Briefing the media in Parliament on his department’s priorities for the 2017/18 financial year, Zwane was asked about Ramatlhodi’s revelations following reports that Ngubane and the utility’s reappointed CEO Brian Molefe allegedly attempted to “hijack” the coal mine from Glencore to benefit the Guptas. The mining minister declined to comment on the claims, TimesLIVE reports.
Ngubane has also shrugged off Ramatlhodi’s claims, calling them “preposterous” on Tuesday.
“My office told me the minister claims that we forced him – he claims something that is impossible. We cannot tell a minister what to do, we take orders from ministers. We ask for help,” Ngubane said. “For a minister to now claim that we actually made him take a decision about something is preposterous.”
Ngubane had to field questions from media on the sidelines of the African Utility conference in Cape Town in Molefe’s absence.
Molefe was scheduled to deliver the keynote address but cancelled – a move that threatened to overshadow the opening of the conference. It would have been Molefe’s first public appearance since he was reinstated as Eskom chief after a short stint as ANC MP.
When asked whether Molefe may possibly be embarrassed given the backlash over the board’s decision to reinstate him, Ngubane dismissed it jokingly.
“Molefe was going to be here but was called to parliament. He can feel hurt about things yes, but definitely not scared for meeting.”
Ngubane also shrugged off calls by the ANC for the Eskom board to be dissolved. He made it clear the board serves at the behest of those who appoint it.
“That is an opinion. We are here to serve at government’s pleasure. We made a difference. I am proud of the difference we made. We saved the country from blackouts.”
He also defended Molefe’s reinstatement despite the backlash it evoked saying Molefe should get credit for saving the country from blackouts.
On his reinstatement he said: “It is going to be for the good. He is going to carry on where he stopped – making electricity affordable for our people.”
The Gupta-linked Zwane has now also commented only by saying: “You must allow the former minister to answer on what he says”
He rejected criticism that the ruling ANC’s new policy of radical economic transformation was meaningless, saying it was a key government objective, though he failed to give clarify what it would entail.
Speaking on the revised mining charter, Zwane said it “will be one of the revolutionary tools” in the pursuit of radical economic transformation.
“We believe the charter which will be gazetted will be reflective of the careful and considered consultations which have taken place over the past year. Radical socioeconomic transformation is therefore not just a buzzword or rhetoric‚ as some public commentators have claimed‚” he said.
“Last year we outlined our priorities for the 2016/17 year as enhancing legislative and policy certainty‚ mine health and safety and meaningful socioeconomic transformation as our priorities.”
He also said his department had found “common ground” with at least 85 percent of investors and companies that had been consulted over the past year.
– Additional reporting by Moneyweb