Brown denies saying 'eish' when Zuma wanted to postpone Eskom board meeting

That's what former Acting Director-General Matsietsi Mokholo told the state capture commission, but Brown denied that that was her reaction, adding that she disagreed with interfering with the autonomy of the board.

Former Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown testifies via video link at the state capture commission on 19 March 2021. Picture: YouTube screengrab/SABC.

JOHANNESBURG - Former Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown said that she never said "eish" when she was told that former President Jacob Zuma wanted to postpone a meeting of the Eskom board.

That's what former Acting Director-General Matsietsi Mokholo told the state capture commission, but Brown denied that that was her reaction adding that she disagreed with interfering with the autonomy of the board.

"I didn't say eish, it's just not in my languages. I never used the term."

The former minister said that she would never show that she disagreed with her principal.

She said that Mokholo told her about the call from Zuma telling her to postpone a meeting of the Eskom board and she did not react but she disagreed.

"Chair, I wasn't pleased with it because, firstly, I don't think that any us, unless there's a good reason, and by us, I mean anyone in the executive, should be cancelling or interfering in board meetings."

Brown said that the board did not send her schedules of its meetings and she did not ask for them.

But board chair, Zola Tsotsi, said that the postponement made way for the announcement to suspend four senior executives and Brown came in person to address the board on the suspensions.

However, she denied that she specifically said that the executives should be suspended.

Brown said that she only agreed that they should step aside so that they did not interfere with investigations.

FAILURE TO END CORRUPTION

The former minister said that she and other ministers in that portfolio had failed to end corruption in state-owned entities.

She said that some of the causes included completely decentralised procurement where an official who bought milk could use company funds for their household without anyone knowing.

Brown said that another problem was that there was no step-in clause that gave the department or Treasury the power to stop tenders where they were irregular.

She said that the difficulty in oversight made it impossible to end load shedding and maintain prudent financial management.

"[In] my time, I couldn't get rid of corruption. The people before my time couldn't get rid of corruption. You must remember that there are a couple of things that I want to raise and I think the answer at the end of it is actually nothing to do with the companies, it's to do with the model."

WATCH: Lynne Brown testifies at Zondo commission

MOUNTING DEBT

Brown said that when she was appointed, Eskom was in dire straits, owing R180 billion and that it was already not a going concern.

She said that the power utility had to spend billions on diesel to keep the lights on and she was called the minister of load shedding.

Brown said that the SOE was on the verge of being unable to pay its 42,000 workers.

The former minister said that while Eskom should be applauded for increasing the number of households connected to more than 90% of the population since 1994, its debt, though, continued to balloon.

"When I came to Eskom, the debt was at R180 billion. By the time I was reshuffled out Cabinet, Eskom's debt was at R260 billion. I think I looked at it about a month ago, the debt is at R450 billion."

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