Eskom warns of winter power cuts – unless Treasury signs new coal deals with Gupta owned company

Eskom chairman Ben Ngubane has warned that South Africans can expect power cuts this winter unless the National Treasury urgently signs purchase agreements so Eskom can build up its coal reserves, according to a report by TimesLive.

Speaking at the sidelines of African Utility Week conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, Ngubane noted that the power provider had no problems over the past two winters as Treasury funding had ensured sufficient coal was brought in and that stocks built up the stocks to more than a million tons.

“Now we have a problem because Treasury has not yet signed our coal purchase agreements and we are in winter‚ and the winter is getting bitter, said Ngubane.

“People are using electricity like crazy … We need to have enough stock of coal in view of that.”

He further gave credit for the uninterrupted electricity supply to newly reinstated Eskom CEO Brian Molefe‚ who on his second day back in the hot seat skipped the event due to other “urgent matters”.

Reports point to Molefe missing the start of the conference after investigative group, amaBhungane, implicated him in a plan to help the controversial Gupta family “hijack” the Optimum Coal mine operation from Glencore.

Former mining minister, Ngoako Ramatlhodi made damning allegations against Molefe, Ngubane and president Jacob Zuma, telling amaBhungane that he was fired from the department when he would not go along with a plan to blackmail former Optimum owners, Glencore.

It has been 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 the press 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”.

Ramatlhodi was removed by the president as the minister and moved to head the public service and administration department not long after. He was replaced by Mosebenzi Zwane, a man who has acted in much greater sympathy towards the Gupta family and has links to them going back to his political career in the Free State. Zwane remains the minister.

In response, Eskom board spokesperson Khulani Qoma told the press that “in the desperation to drive these outlandish allegations, the president’s name will always be used”.

“Did the media 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?”

We, however believe, 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”.

Sources: The Citizen, Businesstech

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