Mufamadi silent on politicians’ names in De Ruyter corruption claims — dangles carrot of more info in closed-door session
Presidential security advisor Sydney Mufamadi declined to name the high-ranking politicians linked to corruption by Eskom's former CEO André de Ruyter, but confirmed much of those claims when he appeared before Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts on Friday.
The meeting of 5 July 2022 on the Eskom corruption investigations between the then still Eskom CEO André de Ruyter, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and one of his advisors, who remained unnamed, emerged not as an in passing, on the hop meeting but as a proper briefing in the account presidential security advisor Sydney Mufamadi gave MPs.
And while no actual reports were distributed — to date the minister, the Eskom board, the Hawks and SAPS indicated they did not have such a report — De Ruyter talked off documents to give “a sense of the pervasiveness of criminality” at Eskom.
“There was nothing to take away but what was said to us was enough to give the advice that I then gave, namely that Mr De Ruyter must interact with the law enforcement agencies,” Mufamadi on Friday told Parliament’s public spending watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa).
“Was there any name-dropping? Yes, there was,” he said, later adding being able to recall those names, “but I don’t want to raise your hopes… I do not want to mention names”.
It would not have been possible to take names of “high-level politicians” without verification to President Cyril Ramaphosa as he would have asked for proof. And that only the police could do. And referring De Ruyter to police was his advice when requested.
“If there was a hope that I would take the report to the President, that hope was not expressed to me… There was no report given to me which I would then carry and hand over to the president.”
The quest for names that prevailed over previous meetings of Scopa on the De Ruyter claims, made initially in a televised e.tv interview and then his book, seemed to have dissipated. ANC MPs were pushing the securocrat’s secrecy line — from critical infrastructure, or the democratic label for the apartheid-era national key points like Eskom, top secret vetting requirements and the state’s intelligence services.
Much of MPs’ questions focused on De Ruyter’s privately-funded, intelligence-driven investigation into corruption and fraud that cost Eskom not only an estimated R1-billion a month but also led to continual plant breakdowns.
When asked about the lack of security clearance of the company that investigated the corruption at a security-restricted so-called critical infrastructure, Mufamadi sidestepped replying,
“… (I)f you were the president and you were asking me this question at an appropriate place, I would be giving you an answer.”
It was one of a handful of occasions Mufamadi, smiling and softly spoken, declined to answer.
And yet Eskom was defined as a risk to national security — in the absence of an updated national security strategy, and one that is publicly available. This first emerged at Scopa when the SAPS briefed the committee on the national energy priority committee, established under NatJoints, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure that brings together cops, spooks and soldiers in an entity that is not established in law and regulation, and which does not account publicly.
“The problems at Eskom are very serious. It goes to the heart of national security… The antenna of the state system has been raised to this issue… The progress will be reported at the right platforms at the right time,” said Mufamadi as he seemed to downplay his role.
“I drive on my own lane”, he said in describing his role as strategic and supportive of Ramaphosa’s national security responsibilities, more of a cog in the wheels rather than a single conduit for intelligence and such. The president received reports and information for a plethora of people, and he “may or not tell me what has been reported to him”.
From his comments, it became clear Mufamadi had followed previous Scopa engagements not only with the SAPS, Hawks and Special Investigating Unit (SIU), but also the Eskom board and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
Read more in Daily Maverick: It’s politics, stupid — Eskom board, executives and Scopa knock heads over who knew what about private corruption probe and Sidestepping questions, Gordhan lashes De Ruyter for ‘messianic and hero figure’ tendencies
Mufamadi was lawyered up with senior counsel Azhar Bham who was on the Zoom call with Scopa.
As a former minister and MP, Mufamadi knows about Parliament’s constitutional responsibility to conduct its business in the open. Section 59(1) of the Constitution states “The National Assembly may not exclude the public, including the media… unless it is reasonable and justifiable to do so in an open and democratic society”.
And yet he advised Scopa to sit behind closed doors. If it did so, it might be possible that more information might be shared.
“If I were to give you advice, you need to sometimes check… if you want to know more than you can be given on this platform, whether you shouldn’t also try to do so in closed sessions.”
While such a carrot rather than the stick suggestion may play to parliamentarians’ security and secrecy titillations, it does little for accountability in a constitutional democracy.
Whatever is shared in secret can’t make it into parliamentary reports, deliberations and recommendations. And that does not contribute in assisting to get to the bottom of the Eskom saga, entwined as it is in politics, corruption and governance missteps. Or as Gordhan had described this — State Capture 2.0. DM