EWN and investigative journalism centre amaBhungane have revealed that former mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi has made damning new allegations that, while he was the minister, the now reinstated Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe and chairperson Ben Ngubane “effectively pressed him to blackmail resources giant Glencore”.
This was allegedly being done in order to favour the controversial Gupta family and its coal business. The family was trying to buy the Optimum coal mine from Glencore and Eskom was putting the squeeze on Glencore at the time.
The mine had needed to be placed in business rescue after Molefe refused to renegotiate a bad deal for Glencore, and he insisted on penalising the company to the tune of more than R2 billion.
The company ultimately was only too happy to get out of its punitive deal with Eskom, and Optimum was eventually snapped up by the Guptas, who subsequently were given a highly favourable and questionable deal to supply coal to Eskom. The then public protector, Thuli Madonsela, flagged the contract awarded to the Guptas’ Tegeta Resources company by Molefe as suspicious in her State of Capture report last year.
Eskom has, however, dismissed the allegation as “desperate” and “devoid of logic”. Ramatlhodi told news channel eNCA on Tuesday morning, though, that he stood by his statements.
He claims his noncompliance in the matter led to him being fired “within weeks”.
The matter relates to the 2015/16 deal by the Gupta family in buying Optimum, the coal mine that supplies the Hendrina power station.
The minister reportedly claims Molefe and Ngubane demanded “that [Ramathlodi] suspend all Glencore’s mining licences in South Africa, pending the payment of the R2.17 billion penalty”.
Ramatlhodi said he refused to accede to this demand because “suspending all of Glencore’s licences would have brought Glencore’s 14 coal operations to a standstill and risked the jobs of its 35 000 employees in South Africa. At the time Glencore supplied roughly 14% of Eskom’s coal needs, including virtually all of the coal for the Hendrina power station.”
The former minister now alleges Ngubane was very insistent, but Ramatlhodi says he held his ground.
According to him, Ngubane “told him that he would have to report on their [unsatisfactory] meeting to President Jacob Zuma straightaway as the president needed to be in the know before leaving on a foreign trip”.
In response, Eskom board spokesperson Khulani Qoma told amaBhungane that “in the desperation to drive these outlandish allegations, the president’s name will always be used”.
“Did amaBhungane bother to find out why [Ramatlhodi] waited so long before he went public with his allegations or are you [only] interested in the sensational nature of the allegations made?”
AmaBhungane, however, reports that these new allegations “add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that the Guptas’ R2 billion buyout of Optimum should rank among South Africa’s most audacious business hijackings”.
To read about all that evidence, as well as the full story, click here.