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S.Africa’s graft probe told Zuma allies controlled power utility

South Africa’s cash-strapped power monopoly Eskom was controlled by outsiders who were allied to the country’s graft-tainted former president Jacob Zuma, the firm’s chief said on Monday.

Eskom has been buckling under the weight of a $30-billion debt and earlier this month the country suffered rolling blackouts.

Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza told a judicial commission probing allegations of government corruption that outsiders would make decisions and get them rubber stamped by the board.

“Outsiders would decide what to do,” he said, adding that the board “would approve (them) and that would become an Eskom decision”.

“Eskom was run outside Eskom,” said Mabuza.

Last week Finance Minister Tito Mboweni announced a $1.6 billion-a-year bailout for Eskom in an attempt to stave off credit downgrades.

Mabuza described how various senior Eskom executives sent emails containing confidential information to associates of the wealthy Indian migrant Gupta family and associates of Zuma.

He said this would help the Guptas gain unfair advantage when bidding for Eskom contracts.

Mismanagement at the country’s state owned firms have allegedly been linked to the Guptas, who are accused of receiving favourable government deals during Zuma’s presidency.

Alleged corruption under Zuma — known as “state capture” — saw millions of dollars siphoned off through government and state agencies awarding fraudulent contracts to favoured companies in return for bribes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, who came to power when Zuma was ousted from office a year ago, has vowed to root out corruption in the government and the party as the country heads for elections in May.

The ruling African National Congress will be looking to return to it’s former popularity at the polls that it had gained under Nelson Mandela but lost during the Zuma years.