JOHANNESBURG – A key witness due to testify at the state capture commission of inquiry about Eskom’s dealings with the Gupta family has passed away.
Mark van der Riet, a scientist charged with checking Eskom’s coal quality, was suspended after blowing the whistle on alleged corruption by the Gupta family.
He established that the coal at the Brakfontein mine was too poor for Eskom to use, but officials still pushed to use it.
One of Van der Riet’s former colleagues says the autopsy confirms he died as a result of a stress-related heart attack, allegedly hours after signing off on his submission to the Zondo commission of inquiry.
Van der Riet was assigned to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s war room in 2014, to deal with the electricity crisis and was asked to investigate suspect coal from the Gupta’s Brakfontein mine.
He found that about half of the coal was too poor for Eskom to use but he was apparently summoned by former executive Matshela Koko on the basis of an allegation that the lab testing the coal tried to solicit a bribe to amend results.
Eskom was determined to keep using this poor coal despite Van der Riet’s findings and he was suspended for more than 21 months before returning to Eskom only once Koko had been suspended.