Anal­y­sis: Brown and Eskom’s mess

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Siseko Njobeni

THE ONE per­son left with much egg on the face in the af­ter­math of the chaotic mess sur­round­ing Brian Molefe’s re­turn and de­par­ture from Eskom has to be Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown.

Hours af­ter news broke that Molefe would make a dra­matic re­turn to Eskom last month, the un­ex­pected hap­pened – the ANC, which is usu­ally mea­sured and vague if not in­co­her­ent on mat­ters re­lat­ing to the gov­er­nance in state-owned com­pa­nies, was un­equiv­o­cal in its op­po­si­tion to the de­ci­sion. And in the face of such un­re­lent­ing pub­lic crit­i­cism, it was left to Brown to un­tan­gle the mess.

But her press con­fer­ence af­ter the news broke raised more ques­tions than an­swers. She made it clear that, in her opin­ion, Molefe’s re­turn was a bet­ter op­tion, and like a vig­i­lant share­holder, she claimed she was, her only op­po­si­tion was the R30 mil­lion pen­sion pay­out that was to be paid to Molefe.

When it be­came ap­par­ent that the de­ci­sion to re­in­state Molefe did not en­joy po­lit­i­cal sup­port within the ANC, it was Brown – not Molefe or Ngubane – who was walk­ing on eggshells.

By the time Molefe made the now fa­mous toyi-toyi dance in the foyer at Megawatt Park on that Mon­day morn­ing, it had be­come clear that the walls around him were crum­bling. Per­haps the only peo­ple obliv­i­ous to this were the elated crowds that tri­umphantly danced with him.

Since the de­ci­sion to bring him back to Eskom, the ground un­der Brown, Ngubane and Molefe has not stopped shift­ing. The ANC, which had moved moun­tains to see him to Par­lia­ment, wanted Molefe out of Eskom. Iron­i­cally, un­til the an­nounce­ment of his re­turn to Eskom, Molefe was good enough to be an ANC Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment and touted, in some quar­ters, as a prob­a­ble re­place­ment for for­mer Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han.

How­ever, in an un­prece­dented move, the ANC’s Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, of which Brown is a mem­ber, at the week­end in­structed Brown to re­scind Molefe’s ap­point­ment. That is noth­ing short of hu­mil­i­a­tion.

She had been cut to size. Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha, who chaired the In­ter-Min­is­te­rial Com­mit­tee, and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba said the Eskom board erred in re-ap­point­ing Molefe. The in­ter-min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee, was tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing his re­turn to Eskom. It can­not be a good ex­pe­ri­ence to have your cabi­net col­leagues, and per­haps your ju­niors in pol­i­tics, clean up your mess in the glare of pub­lic spot­light.

Brown’s sav­ing grace is to come down hard on the Eskom board and de­mand an­swers. She has said that she would meet it soon and that she would ask ques­tions “so that they clear up a lot of is­sues” be­fore the Eskom an­nual gen­eral meet­ing on June 23. Does she feel that she was mis­led?

Fi­nally, there is the small mat­ter of the act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive. When it re-ap­pointed Molefe, the board canned a re­cruit­ment process that was al­ready un­der way. What is next? Do they re-start the re­cruit­ment process? What are the le­gal im­pli­ca­tions of such a move?

PHOTO: BHEKI RADEBE

Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba, Jus­tice Min­is­ter Michael Ma­sutha and Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown have di­rected the Eskom board to re­scind its de­ci­sion to re­in­state Brian Molefe as chief ex­ec­u­tive.

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