Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has told the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into State Capture that the allegations he made against President Cyril Ramaphosa should not be swept under the carpet, as he continued to pick at the business links the president once had with Glencore.
On Tuesday, Molefe was unrelenting in his belief that Ramaphosa's ties with Glencore's Optimum Coal Mine - the company that was embroiled in a dispute with Eskom over a coal-supply agreement - could have been used by the firm for its own benefit.
Ramaphosa was chairperson of Optimum before he went back into politics and became the country's deputy president in May 2014, and his links have formed an integral part of Molefe's evidence at the State Capture Commission.
On Tuesday, Molefe - who was Eskom CEO between October 2015 and November 2016 - cautioned the commission not to neglect the "substantive allegations" he made in January in his opening statement before the commission, where he stated that the mining company had sought to "extort" R8 billion from Eskom after it developed financial difficulties.
Molefe had suggested that Glencore may have banking on the "influence" of Ramaphosa - a political heavyweight - to get around its operational challenges.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo - who is heading the commission - assured Molefe that, like any other person implicated in the commission, Ramaphosa had been notified of the allegations and given a chance to respond.
Fraught negotiations for coal contract
Optimum was in 2015 embroiled in highly fraught negotiations of the terms of its coal-supply contract with Eskom, which Molefe had to resolve shortly after his arrival at the power utility.
Molefe stated that he did not accuse Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing, but the president's involvement in Glencore could have been used to benefit its business associates.
He pointed out that Glencore's troubles started when the company did not conduct due diligence when it bought the Optimum Mine in 2012. "What they did is they sold a stake of the company that they had brought to Mr Ramaphosa as a BEE partner [in 2012].
"My postulation is that they were hoping to use Mr Ramaphosa's influence to help them to negotiate [themselves] out of that pickle," he said in reference to the company's inability to conduct due diligence.
READ | Glencore 'used relationship' with Ramaphosa to 'extort' Eskom, former CEO Brian Molefe claims
Optimum had wanted Eskom to hike the price of coal from around R150 per ton to R442. It was also fighting off a R2.17 billion fine imposed on it for the supply of substandard coal since 2012.
As the new Eskom group CEO, Molefe also defended the utility's pursuit of penalties against Optimum, and blamed the "lackadaisical" approach that had been adopted by some in the company when it came to driving the issue of payment.
Ramaphosa's name once again came to the fore, pointing to the seeming reluctance to collect the penalty from Optimum.
Molefe said Ramaphosa stood to financially benefit if the penalties - which were accumulated while he was still shareholder - were settled.
"I am not saying I definitely know that he peddled influence, but the circumstances are such that the situation was likely to arise," he said.
"There is a lot of unexplained things that happened at Eskom, as to why the penalties not pursued."
In December 2015, Optimum was eventually sold to Tegeta Exploration and Resources - a company owned by the Gupta family. The deal was concluded in early 2016. Molefe once again raised a red flag over Ramaphosa's role, who was at the time the chairperson of the war room.
"When Cyril Ramaphosa was chairperson of the war room, the transaction had not yet been completed. It was only approved by the Competition Commission in August 2015. Technically speaking ... he was chairman of the war room and [a] shareholder."
A government statement issued on 24 November 2014 stated that former president Jacob Zuma had in July of that year granted Ramaphosa an extension of four months to dispose of any assets that may give rise to a conflict of interest with his duties.
The statement further said that Ramaphosa had already exited his shareholding in the Shanduka Group, an investment holding company with interests in a number of industries, which included companies in the resources and energy sectors.
However, Molefe told the Zondo Commission that Ramaphosa should have taken a cooling-off period before taking up the role of heading the body that was set up to monitor the operational challenges faced by Eskom.