Public Enterprises Minister denies contact with Guptas


Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, whose portfolio includes the state-owned entities (SOEs) Denel and Eskom, told a Parliamentary enquiry into mismanagement of state funds she had not met or consulted with Tony Gupta or Salim Essa.

The current round of the inquiry centres on Eskom but will next year move onto other SOEs, including the defence and technology conglomerate, Denel.

The Irene, Centurion, headquartered group of companies has been linked to the Gupta family via the East Rand-based company VR Laser and also with the setting up of a company in Hong Kong, Denel Asia.
“I have never consulted with anyone on my executive functions,” Brown said in a statement on the official Parliament website. “Why would I hand over functions to anyone else? As far as the board appointments I report to Cabinet and Cabinet decides who serves on the boards”.

She appeared before the Public Enterprises Portfolio Committee last week in connection with national power utility, Eskom.

On the appointment of Brian Molefe, Minister Brown said he brought cohesion to the Eskom executive team, built staff morale and helped develop a clear plan on reviving public and investor confidence in Eskom. He also provided assurance to the war room and cabinet on improving Eskom plant performance and addressing load-shedding.

In a statement to the committee she indicated she was aware of “circumstantial evidence of malfeasance at some SOEs” but did not name any.

The Denel Asia joint venture, involving Denel and apparent Gupta associate company VR Laser Asia, went as far as the North Gauteng High Court with Denel defending its establishment and National Treasury opposing it. Denel eventually withdrew its application and indicated it would not be proceeding with the VR Laser Asia partnership in Hong Kong.

VR Laser is a sub-contractor on Project Hoefyster, which will see the Infantry Formation of the SA Army get new infantry fighting vehicles to replace its ageing Ratels. The East Rand-based company does steel cutting for Denel Land Systems (DLS), the main Hoefyster contractor.