Former Public Enterprises Minister, Lynne Brown, has denied allegations of wrongdoing at Eskom while she was minister. Brown served her term under former president Jacob Zuma from 2014 until she was fired in 2018.
Although Brown admitted to the commission knowing one of the Gupta brothers, she has denied playing a role in enabling Capture at the power utility. She told Deputy Chief Justice of the Commission Raymond Zondo she is appearing before the commission to clear her name, separate narrative from reality and set her tainted reputation straight.
Ms. Brown tells the Commission that she knows Ajay Gupta, she says she met him when she was MEC of Finance, she says she met him on her way to India. #StateCaptureInquiry
— State Capture Commission (@StateCaptureCom) March 19, 2021
The former Public Enterprise Minister said she did not know some board members appointed to Eskom in 2014 had links to the Guptas. Brown said she opted to advertise board positions in the newspapers rather than getting list of names from her departments data base. Brown thought the advert was a good idea and hoped it would add alternative names to the data base.
Brown also told the commission she got shocked to learn some board members had links to the Gupt’s. She said if the Gupta companies had been blacklisted by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) some of the board members would not have served in Eskom in 2014. She denied the Gupta’s influenced her decision relating to board members at Eskom
“And when the issue got raised by the media I then instituted a second conflict of interest process and its in that area that even though Mr Pamenskey for example, he listed that he was from Oakbay and it was a Gupta Linked company and I asked him to resign and he chose to resign I think,” she said.
Brown denied claims that she set in motion a decision by the Eskom board to suspend four top executives in 2015 to pave way for executives who were more sympathetic to Gupta linked entities. Former Eskom board members had earlier told the commission Brown had supported their decision to institute an inquiry against these executives who were later plunged from the entity.
“I have been listening to quite a number of board members and because I said these are the areas that they had to focus on that in essence I told them these are the people that had to leave. I don’t think I said that these executives must be allowed to step aside. What I did say is this must happen as quickly as possible irrespective as whether the executives must step aside or not,” she said.
The former minister said she stepped aside from formal politics because there were what she termed as unprecedented attacks on her family and friends. Brown says there has been a narrative by the media and society that she was one of the enablers of State Capture.
“The chairperson has to make a decision on whether I was part of capturing the state and capturing the state was whether I was part of the Gupta’s the president and all of that. But that wasn’t the worst part of the attacks I think the attacks came to where it actually dealt with personal matters and dealt with people who had absolutely noting to do with my personal work,” she added.
Brown blamed the complex governance structures as the main reasons why most State-Owned Entities fail. She also told the commission she knew Ajay Gupta and had met him 10 years ago when she was MEC for finance. Brown says she met him on a trip to India with the then Minister in the presidency, Essop Pahad.
Brown will be expected back at the commission to be cross examined.
Brown’s testimony in the video below: