SUZANNE DANIELS, former Eskom head of legal services and compliance and the so-called whistle blower at Parliament’s Eskom State Capture hearing last year, was fired last week following an internal disciplinary hearing headed by an independent chairperson, which found she played a role in the “capture”.
A cyber forensic investigation into emails of various former Eskom executives including former executive Matshela Koko, downloaded from Eskom’s server, pointed to Daniels’s hand in assisting in the parastatal’s state capture scandals. The power utility accused her of having secretly sent commercially sensitive information to an email belonging to Salim Essa, dubbed the “Gupta Kingpin” by the media. She was also accused of being at the centre of the McKinsey/Trilian R1.6bn saga and the R659million upfront payment to the Gupta family’s Tegeta which bought the Optimum mine. There were also claims she approved payments to a legal firm for services rendered to former SABC board chairperson on matters which had nothing to do with Eskom.
Advocate Nazir Cassim, who headed the hearing, found there was enough collusion on Daniels’s part to warrant a summary dismissal. He found she had “committed serious misconduct and also breached her duty of good faith and a duty of trust and confidence to Eskom”.
The advocate found she was not a trustworthy witness and had not made full disclosure of her role in the transactions which were being investigated and had not provided any new material to the enquiry. Interviewed by Chris Barron in the Sunday Times, an interview which was clearly sympathetic to Daniels, Cassim said there was nothing key in her disclosure.
Barron: She blew the whistle on the perpetrators didn’t she?
Cassim: I found it too little too late. That which she blew was already in the public domain. It was in the public protector’s report. It wasn’t new.
Barron: “You’re saying her evidence was of no importance?
Cassim: It wasnt key at all. Investigative journalists had already given much greater insight and depth into matters she already knew about.
Barron: Surely the fact that her evidence was first-hand made it important?
Cassim: Not at all because it’s all documented. The corruption is so blatant. The whole board is involved. She’s involved. And obviously when the writing was on the wall she said: “No no let me make disclosures”. It was too little too late.
Barron: Rather late than not surely?
Cassim: That’s the problem with this country. Everybody when you’re caught out wants to make disclosures but the damage is done….
Barron: Doesn’t that send a message to would-be whistleblowers that unless you’re clean don’t blow the whistle on others?
Cassim: No the message is that as a senior executive when you see something is going wrong, and you’re too scared to blow the whistle, at least don’t participate in that wrong act and then come and say: “I now want to come clean”. You can’t be opportunistic and take credit simply to advance your interests.
Barron: What are those?
Cassim: To save herself
Barron: If she didn’t have assurances, why would she assume she was saving herself if she came forward?
Cassim: She was trying to promote her own interests when she came clean. She realised there was now exposure in the press that these people were looting Eskom, that she was in the centre of it and now she’s in trouble. Everybody who is in trouble is now blaming somebody else. That is opportunistic. It’s not genuinely coming forward.