Knives out for Eskom board

Molefe fi­asco has caused govern­ment a lot of rep­u­ta­tion dam­age, says Gi­gaba

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI AND LUY­OLO MKEN­TANE

THE de­ci­sion of a com­mit­tee of min­is­ters to fire Brian Molefe as Eskom boss, just hours af­ter he ap­peared in Par­lia­ment to ex­plain one of the Gupta deals, has put the board of the util­ity in the fir­ing line.

Knives are out for the trou­bled power util­ity’s board, led by for­mer SABC board chair­per­son Dr Ben Ngubane, with the gov­ern­ing ANC’s al­liance part­ners lead­ing calls for it to be dis­solved.

SACP spokesper­son Alex Mashilo said the board must fall on their swords. “We have been call­ing for Molefe to be re­moved from that po­si­tion. Molefe didn’t reap­point him­self, he was reap­pointed by the board,” he said.

“The fact that they chose to reap­point him proves the board’s in­ca­pac­ity to hold of­fice, and it should be dis­banded. The min­is­ter must dis­solve that board ur­gently,” he added.

Ngubane and Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown have been un­der heavy pres­sure from Luthuli House to re­verse the Molefe de­ci­sion. This is af­ter they flip-flopped from say­ing Molefe re­signed, took early re­tire­ment, or went on un­paid leave.

So an­gry was the ANC over the mat­ter that spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa ac­cused Brown and Ngubane of per­jury.

The party’s study group on pub­lic en­ter­prises in Par­lia­ment said the var­i­ous ex­pla­na­tions raised sus­pi­cion that there was fraud when Molefe sud­denly be­came an ANC MP af­ter he pub­licly and tear­fully quit as Eskom boss in Novem­ber.

Molefe’s re­moval as Eskom boss was a blow to the Gup­tas and part of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ini­tial plans to make him fi­nance min­is­ter to re­place the em­bat­tled Pravin Gord­han, who was axed in a cabi­net blood­bath in March. Some ANC of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe, con­firmed pub­licly that they had blocked Zuma from ap­point­ing Molefe as fi­nance min­is­ter.

The ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion at the week­end that the reap­point­ment should be re­scinded has­tened Molefe’s demise.

Cosatu spokesper­son Sizwe Pamla said the union fed­er­a­tion wel­comed the de­ci­sion to re­verse Molefe’s reap­point­ment as Eskom chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“It means the ANC is pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to what is be­ing done in its name. How­ever, we no longer trust that board. It should be dis­solved be­cause if, as a board, you fail in such a man­ner that an in­ter-min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee is put to­gether to scru­ti­nise your fail­ures, you can’t be trusted with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of tak­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion for­ward,” said Pamla.

Kodwa said the rul­ing party wel­comed the de­ci­sion on Molefe. “Our view was the govern­ment must deal with the mat­ter. What it does with the board, it’s their is­sue,” he said.

Umkhonto weSizwe Mil­i­tary Vet­er­ans As­so­ci­a­tion chair­per­son Kebby Maphat­soe said al­though they re­spected the min­is­te­rial de­ci­sion on Molefe, the board should not go. The vet­er­ans are staunch back­ers of Zuma.

DA pub­lic en­ter­prises spokesper­son Natasha Maz­zone said her party had writ­ten to the act­ing chair­per­son of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on pub­lic en­ter­prises, Zuk­iswa Ran­tho, de­mand­ing an­swers for the de­lay in con­sti­tut­ing a full-scale par­lia­men­tary in­quiry “into the rot at Eskom”.

“Only a full-scale in­quiry has the ca­pac­ity to get to the bot­tom of the rot. It must be con­sti­tuted and sched­uled im­me­di­ately,” she said.

When asked to com­ment on the fu­ture of the board, Ran­tho said: “We will re­view the in­ter-min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee’s de­ci­sion on the mat­ter; if it is nec­es­sary that fur­ther steps should be taken, we will seek le­gal ad­vice on what to do next.”

Brown’s spokesper­son Colin Cruywagen could only say the min­is­ter had made it clear that the board must pro­vide her with two names of ex­ec­u­tives who can act as group chief ex­ec­u­tive. He would not be drawn on who was likely to suc­ceed Molefe.

How­ever, Brown re­ferred some Eskom con­tracts to the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit for in­ves­ti­ga­tion, set­ting the stage for fur­ther scru­tiny of the board and Molefe’s links to the Gup­tas, whose com­pany Tegeta sup­plies coal to the util­ity.

Molefe, Ngubane and Eskom board spokesper­son Khu­lani Qoma could not be reached for com­ment last night.

Yes­ter­day, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, who formed part of the min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee, said it was in the best in­ter­est of the coun­try that Molefe left Eskom.

Gi­gaba said the events of the past three weeks had been painful and could have been avoided by the util­ity. “It has caused govern­ment a lot of harm, a lot of rep­u­ta­tion dam­age,” he said. He added that the fi­asco also caused harm to Eskom and Brown.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha said the board had ad­mit­ted it made a mis­take in reap­point­ing Molefe.

He also con­firmed what Eskom told Par­lia­ment last week that Molefe’s po­si­tion had al­ready been ad­ver­tised when he was reap­pointed, and a short­list of can­di­dates had al­ready been se­lected.

BRIAN Molefe’s two-week re­turn at Eskom came to an abrupt end yes­ter­day af­ter the in­ter-min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee (IMC) on Eskom pulled the plug on him, or­der­ing the power util­ity’s board to re­scind its de­ci­sion to reap­point him as chief ex­ec­u­tive.

The IMC said Molefe’s reap­point­ment was a se­ri­ous breach of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance which had caused rep­u­ta­tional dam­age to Eskom and the govern­ment.

Com­mit­tee chair­per­son Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha said the board made a se­ri­ous mis­take in reap­point­ing Molefe to the po­si­tion.

“The view of the IMC is that this is a new con­tract and the (Pub­lic En­ter­prises) Min­is­ter (Lynne Brown) should have been a party,” said Ma­sutha.

Molefe’s reap­point­ment had been a sub­ject of heated de­bates in Par­lia­ment with the op­po­si­tion par­ties launch­ing court ac­tions to re­verse the de­ci­sion.

Brown said she had asked the board to give her two names of Eskom ex­ec­u­tives to be ap­pointed to act in Molefe’s po­si­tion within 48 hours.

“I am go­ing to meet the board again. There are a num­ber of ques­tions I need to put to the board be­fore the AGM on June 23,” said Brown.

She added she would seek clar­ity from the board on whether Molefe would get any money from the power util­ity.

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, who also formed part of the com­mit­tee, said the de­ci­sion to reap­point Molefe should not have hap­pened.

“Sit­ting where I sit I would not have wanted this de­ci­sion to be taken,” said Gi­gaba.

He added the de­ci­sion to re­verse Eskom’s reap­point­ment of Molefe was taken in the spirit of good cor­po­rate gov­er­nance.

Gi­gaba said there must be con­se­quences for what hap­pened.

“The de­ci­sion we are tak­ing is not re­flect­ing on the ca­pa­bil­i­ties or lack thereof of Brian Molefe.

“He is ca­pa­ble where he has been,” Gi­gaba said.

He added that there were no plans to ap­point Molefe to any po­si­tion in the govern­ment or state-owned en­ti­ties (SOEs).

“What con­se­quences will there be for the board?

“The min­is­ter has in­di­cated she will ro­tate the board. There have to be con­se­quences,” said Gi­gaba.

He also spoke out strongly against the SOEs us­ing their guar­an­tees to strengthen their bal­ance sheets.

Gi­gaba added that they could be run bet­ter and more ef­fi­ciently.

DUMPED: Brian Molefe

PHOTO: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI

Brian Molefe is once again on the move from Eskom af­ter hav­ing re­ceived his march­ing or­ders yes­ter­day.

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