Helen Suzman Foundation, Wierzycka sue ministers, Zuma and Guptas over capture at Eskom
Johannesburg – The Helen Suzman Foundation and Sygnia Asset Management CEO Magda Wierzycka have approached the courts to deal with the capture of Eskom.
According to an affidavit filed at the North Gauteng High Court on Thursday, the foundation and Wierzycka want the courts to set upside the “series of unlawful, improper and corrupt” exercises of public power, and to recover all the proceeds lost in order to benefit the fiscus.
The application has been brought against 75 respondents including Eskom itself, President Jacob Zuma, Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba, Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Eskom executives including Anoj Singh and Brian Molefe and former Oakbay CEO Nazeem Howa and Oakbay’s Ronica Ragavan, and both Ajay and Atul Gupta.
The decision was taken given the “absence of action” by relevant organs of state and law enforcement agencies, these being the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority, according to a statement by the foundation.
“Relief is also sought for the failure to report these instances of corruption, as required under the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, 2004,” the statement read.
“The application seeks that the respondents, including members of the National Executive, Eskom officials and the Gupta family and businesses, account fully and properly to Court for all funds or other benefits which have accrued to them or others as a result of the unlawful and corrupt conduct set out in the application, and to pay all amounts unlawfully obtained to Eskom or the State.”
The foundation further stated that the mismanagement and corruption at Eskom are of “paramount public interest” and bears constitutional significance as it affects South Africans at a basic level.
“The emerging evidence in the public domain suggests that state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been and are being repurposed to serve the private accumulation interests, particularly those of a small powerful elite identified as the Gupta family and their associates,” the affidavit read.
In the affidavit the foundation calls out the “corrupt rent-seeking behaviour and extortion” which has undermined South Africa’s development agenda through the diverting of state resources to the “hands of unproductive and corrupt elites.”
Corruption at Eskom
The affidavit further unpacks how corruption has taken place at Eskom, particularly through its operating expenditure.
“The most blatant acts of corruption and maladministration appear to have been perpetrated in relation to Eskom's coal procurement - through the awarding of over-priced coal contracts, the squeezing out of incumbent coal producers, and the unlawful acquisition of coal mines by the Gupta family, financed by Eskom,” the affidavit read.
“Over the course of several years, officials at the highest echelons of the South African State have been doing the bidding of a powerful family and their business associates, in disregard for their constitutional and other legal duties.”
The affidavit also refers to the influence of the Gupta family on the positions of key officers of state, government roles and positions at Eskom between 2010 and 2015.
The purpose of the application is to hold those responsible for the illegality and corruption to account and to recover the misappropriated state funds.
The foundation and Wierzycka want all the amounts or the full value of benefits that were corruptly obtained to be paid in full to the state entities from which they were obtained, or the person or entity which suffered loss.
The affidavit lists the transactions by which the benefits or amounts, running into billions, were unlawfully obtained. The transactions listed involve several between Eskom and Tegeta Exploration and Resources, formerly owned by the Guptas.
In a tweet Wierzycka said that it was time to hold people to account and no longer be passive observers of the plundering of the country.
The time has come to stop being passive observers as our beautiful country is being plundered by those who put their financial self-interests ahead of those of SA. The time has come for everyone to say enough is enough. The time has come to hold people to account.— Magda Wierzycka (@Magda_Wierzycka) December 14, 2017
* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER