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Zondo hears ‘shocking’ testimony on how taxpayers' money was squandered

SAA, Eskom and Transnet board chairpersons made decisions that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo called "baffling".

FILE: Deputy Chief Justice Zondo during the first public hearing on state capture allegations in Johannesburg on 20 August 2018. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The state capture commission of inquiry has been hearing unbelievable stories from board chairpersons who were trusted custodians of billions of rand of taxpayers’ money.

Some took instructions blindly from the Presidency and its intermediaries or unknown emails, but they all made decisions that Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo called "baffling".

Dudu Myeni doubled as South African Airways (SAA) chairperson and told former Eskom chairperson Zola Tsotsi what to do at the power utility.

“The president [Jacob Zuma] came in and sat down and did more listening than anything else and Dudu spoke most of the time,” Tsotsi told the commission.

“Ms Dudu Myeni knew before you came in that the idea was that there should be an inquiry and executives should be suspended [at Eskom],” Zondo said.

That meeting was Tsotsi’s downfall, making way for Ben Ngubane to take as Eskom acting chairperson. Ngubane allegedly took instructions from an email called “businessman” and he denied that it belonged to businessman Salim Essa.

“If businessman sends the boards of SOEs this proposal Dr Ngubane accompanied by a letter from the minister, that means businessman is working with the minister to tell the boards what to do and that was Eskom, Transnet, and Denel – all these boards are string along by businessman as the adviser to the minister,” said the commission‘s evidence leader Advocate Pule Seleka.

Ngubane said in response: “I think there is enough expertise in this country to determine the domain of any email address.”

There were also more jokes at Transnet with former board chairperson Mafika Mkwanazi who agreed to pay millions to former CEO Siyabonga Gama’s legal costs even though the High Court had said Gama should pay Transnet.

Zondo said: “The question from Ms Tshepe is, ‘if we have a very good case, why are we settling?’ and then the chairperson says ‘we don’t know’.”

The tragedy is that every joke may have cost taxpayers billions.

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