It didn’t take long for the name of the notorious Gupta brothers – who once made millions selling coal in South Africa with questionable contracts – to be dragged into the big shake up at Africa’s biggest power generator.
The brothers left South Africa, this year, after two decades of business in South Africa that garnered them a multi-billion rand fortune. Their critics claim they used political influence to secure many of these contracts to supply coal to Eskom from their operations under Tegeta Resources at premium prices at the last minute to ease shortages.
“It (Eskom) would sign midnight contracts with Tegeta to get coal pre-payments of hundreds of millions of rand that were given. There would be teleconferences to make sure the Guptas got the deal,” says Pravin Gordhan the minister of public enterprises.
“The idea was to squeeze everyone else out of the market and make the Guptas dominant. Now they (Eskom) are telling us it takes a year to sign such contracts. There is something wrong in this kingdom, so to speak.”
Gordhan also said he was concerned about the cost of diesel to run Eskom’s emergency open cycle gas turbines that are used to prop up the grid. He said a team of independent advisers were going to look at this cost.
“They were spending a billion rand a month to keep the lights on” There has to be a use of diesel but it is something you want to minimise.”
The Guptas left for Dubai earlier this year and most of their businesses have been sold off or liquidated.