Analysis: Brown and Eskom’s mess
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?
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.