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Eskom officials bullied into approving R25bn transaction, commission hears

The transaction involved a R25 billion loan from Chinese asset management company Huarong to the power utility.

Eskom flags at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The state capture commission has heard how Eskom’s treasury officials were bullied and threatened into approving the controversial multi-billion rand Huarong transaction.

The transaction involved a R25 billion loan from the Chinese asset management company to the power utility.

The loan was intended for the building or refurbishment of power stations but it included onerous binding terms on Eskom, including a R400 million commitment fee and a large penalty if Eskom cancelled the deal.

Eskom’s treasury official Sincedile Shweni testified about this deal on Monday.

Last week, Eskom Treasurer Andre Pillay told the inquiry that former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh and then acting CEO Sean Maritz signed off on the dubious deal without following procurement processes even though it was clear the loan would not help but burden the power utility.

Shweni has told the state capture commission that during negotiations on the Huarong deal, Eskom officials were threatened and pressured by the Chinese company’s bosses to sign off on the deal even though it didn’t make sense for the power utility.

Shweni says that at one point he received a call from Eskom’s treasurer Andre Pillay saying the CEO of Huarong’s subsidiary company Tribus, Rajeev Thomas, was bullying him.

"He called me as he was driving to work to say 'I'm being threatened.' I asked by who and he said 'Rajeev' [Thomas].

But Shweni was asked some tough questions by deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo and forced to take some responsibility for the approval of the dubious deal.

He conceded that had he not withheld information about the commitment and cancelation fee to the Reserve Bank the central bank may have not approved the Huarong transaction.

He says this was an error of judgement.

The commission is expected to resume on Tuesday morning with testimony from other Eskom officials Snehal Nagar and Gert Opperman.

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