Nicholas Linnell, beamed in from London, testified to the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture last week (October 5) on Eskom-related matters.
Linnell has been referred to as former South African Airways (SAA) chair Dudu Myeni’s “eyes and ears”, ‘Mr Fixer’ and ‘Mr Fix It’. He has also been referred to as a legal advisor to Myeni, although he is not an admitted attorney in South Africa.
According to Linnell, he acts as a co-ordinator, “giving direction.” It is unclear how Myeni met Linnell, but he started to work with her in 2014, and claimed to know her well.
At the time Myeni chaired the SAA board, Linnell played a key role in advising on various state-owned entities, including SAA, the Mhlathuze Water Board in KwaZulu-Natal, and Eskom.
Linnell, an ex-Zimbabwean, was with a company called CTNA Project Management, trading as The Project Office. It had offices in SA and the UK.
Urgent meetings arranged by Myeni
On March 6, 2015, Myeni called on Linnell to urgently attend a meeting with her at former President Jacob Zuma’s official residence in Pretoria. Zuma did not attend the meeting, but was at the residence.
Myeni informed Linnell that Zuma wanted an investigation into the affairs of Eskom.
It was Linnell’s understanding that top Eskom executives would be suspended during the inquiry.
Linnell was of the understanding that Myeni was “the confidant and political ally” of Zuma.
On March 7, 2015 Linnell spoke with Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi and requested key company documents. Linnell couldn’t remember who gave him Tsotsi’s number.
On March 8, 2015 Linnell attended a meeting at the former president’s state house in Durban. Also there were Tsotsi, Myeni, Myeni’s son Thalente, and a man by the name of Jabu Maswanganyi. Myeni had arranged the meeting. The details of the inquiry into Eskom were discussed, including the state of Eskom, what was happening at Eskom, and the reasons for the inquiry.
According to Linnell: “The expectation was to make sure that the proposal we give the president fits his expectation.”
When asked whether suspensions were discussed, Linnell said: “There was definitely an extended discussion about suspension … why that was a good approach … and which functionaries would be the appropriate people to suspend.…”
Linnell said Maswanganyi had “very incisive information about Eskom” including information on load shedding.
The meeting was followed by a meeting with Zuma (Myeni’s son and Maswanganyi were included in this meeting).
At the meeting Linnell was tasked with preparing a board memorandum together with supporting resolutions proposing that an extraordinary meeting be held to conduct an inquiry into Eskom. He would also prepare a draft memorandum that would be used to support the board in holding pre-suspension meetings with the individuals concerned.
Infamous Eskom ‘sabotage’ document
Maswanganyi sent the infamous Eskom Energy Crisis Load Sabotage report – which dealt with alleged corruption, maladministration, some procurement issues, and which targeted specific individuals – to Linnell on March 8, 2015.
The report alleged that Eskom executives colluded with contractors to sabotage load capacity; in other words, to disrupt the power grid. The report placed the blame on two executives who had been suspended the year before.
Linnell confirmed that the contents of this document were covered in the terms of reference for the Eskom inquiry that he drafted.
At the March 8 meeting, it was agreed to suspend three executives – CEO Tshediso Matona, group capital executive Dan Marokane, and commercial and technology executive Matshela Koko.
Linnell couldn’t recall when a fourth executive, CFO Nonkululeko Dlamini, was added.
The only reason for suspending the executives was the alleged possible interference in the investigations.
No wrongdoing was alleged against these executives, nor was there any issue of misconduct.
Myeni has her own version of the truth.
In her affidavit she said the former president did not attend the meeting, denied that her son attended the meeting, insisted that Tsotsi had called the meeting on March 8 as he was concerned about his own position at Eskom, denied that she facilitated the meeting – and said Tsotsi had introduced her to Linnell at the meeting.
Linnell’s testimony has raised disturbing issues …
Dudu Myeni seems to have been interfering with Eskom governance even though she had no jurisdiction.
Linnell, Myeni’s son Thalente, and Maswanganyi allegedly took part in discussions on a major state-owned entity with the president.
Linnell was engaged on the Eskom matter even though there was no formal letter of appointment, and no contract. He was drafting letters of suspension for Eskom executives even before he had met with the Eskom board.
How does an outsider get to attend board meetings of a state-owned entity?
What were the reasons for the suspensions? There was not a shred of evidence that the suspended executives would impede the investigation. In any event, that is not a ground for suspension.
How does an outsider get to put forward suspensions of board meetings, write board memoranda, draft the letters of suspension, draft the terms of reference? Someone who, with respect, was not even at the level of a board director?
And finally, who exactly is Linnell?
Read: Eskom and SAA: The SOE project has failed