Ngubane re­signs ‘un­der a cloud’

Tim­ing fu­els sus­pi­cions and calls for ac­count­abil­ity

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - BONGANI HANS

DR BEN Ngubane, the erst­while Eskom board chair­per­son, is not off the hook. The ANC and op­po­si­tion par­ties yes­ter­day de­manded that he be held ac­count­able for the mess at the power util­ity in the wake of the saga in­volv­ing for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Molefe.

And a civic group, the Or­gan­i­sa­tion Un­do­ing Tax Abuse (Outa), has laid crim­i­nal charges against Ngubane.

Yes­ter­day, the chief whip on the ANC study group on pub­lic en­ter­prises, Zuk­iswa Ran­tho, de­scribed Ngubane’s res­ig­na­tion as “an at­tempt to avoid be­ing held ac­count­able for his role in re­cent events at Eskom”.

Ran­tho said Ngubane was cen­tral to the reap­point­ment of Molefe. She said the board had failed to re­spond to a num­ber of ques­tions from the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on pub­lic en­ter­prises on Molefe’s ap­point­ment and other mis­con­duct.

Ran­tho said it was wrong for board mem­bers of pub­lic en­ti­ties to re­sign to avoid an­swer­ing se­ri­ous ques­tions on their per­for­mance.

“The tim­ing and ra­tio­nale of this res­ig­na­tion is there­fore sur­pris­ing and sus­pect. This sud­den res­ig­na­tion must be fol­lowed by an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct and cor­rup­tion at Eskom,” said Ran­tho.

Ngubane and Molefe had re­cently come un­der fire af­ter the emer­gence of leaked emails link­ing them to the Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s con­tro­ver­sial friends the Gup­tas.

The duo were ac­cused of try­ing to force for­mer min­eral re­sources min­is­ter Ngoako Ra­matl­hodi to with­draw Glen­core’s Op­ti­mum min­ing li­cences to clear a space for Gup­tas take over the pro­ject. They have de­nied this.

Pub­lic En­ter­prise Min­is­ter Lynne Brown landed in hot wa­ter af­ter the board gave three ex­pla­na­tions on Molefe’s de­par­ture and re­turn to Eskom. She was sub­se­quently forced to re­scind the de­ci­sion af­ter pres­sure from Luthuli House.

ANC spokesper­son Zizi Kodwa said the law should take its course against any­one im­pli­cated in wrong­do­ing, “whether an incumbent or not”.

“The al­le­ga­tions in some of the emails are quite dam­ag­ing to the image of the util­ity and the state… it does not mean if some­body re­signs they must not be held ac­count­able. Ngubane has an­swers to give,” said Kodwa.

ANC par­lia­men­tary spokesper­son Non­ceba Mh­lauli said Ngubane and other board mem­bers had last ap­peared be­fore the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on May 23, where ques­tions were posed to them, and they were asked to re­turn with an­swers.

It is un­der­stood the board will ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee again on June 21.

“The com­mit­tee can ei­ther sub­poena Ngubane or it can con­tinue with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in his ab­sence,” said Mh­lauli.

Ngubane could not be reached for com­ment.

Brown’s spokesper­son Colin Cruy­wa­gen said the min­is­ter was ex­pect­ing the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­gat­ing Unit to re­view “the con­tents of all re­ports into al­leged wrong­do­ings” at Eskom.

Brown wanted a probe into the al­le­ga­tions of pro­cure­ment and poor gover­nance. She rec­om­mended the in­volve­ment of a re­tired judge.

About the fu­ture of the board fol­low­ing Ngubane’s res­ig­na­tion, Cruy­wa­gen said: “Eskom’s AGM is on June 23 and Brown has in­di­cated that that af­fords her an op­por­tu­nity to ro­tate the board.”

Ted Blom, port­fo­lio di­rec­tor for en­ergy at Outa, said it had ob­tained ev­i­dence against Ngubane on a loan he and his wife re­ceived from Ithala bank.

“We are con­fi­dent in the ev­i­dence Outa has given the au­thor­i­ties and will keep a close eye on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and pros­e­cu­tion process. We trust the po­lice and the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity will take up this mat­ter with the ur­gency and sin­cer­ity it de­serves.”

IFP na­tional chair­per­son Blessed Gwala said his party was sur­prised to learn of Ngubane’s res­ig­na­tion “un­der clouds”, as it never imag­ined he could be im­pli­cated in cor­rupt ac­tiv­i­ties.

The DA said Ngubane should also an­swer re­gard­ing the R30 mil­lion “golden hand­shake” promised to Molefe.

Eskom board spokesper­son Khu­lani Qoma said he had been in­structed to no longer speak on be­half of Ngubane since he had re­signed.

“He is no longer the chair­per­son so we can com­mu­ni­cate on a per­sonal and pri­vate level if there is a need to do that, but he is not our chair­per­son so I would not be able to speak on his be­half,” said Qoma.

This sud­den res­ig­na­tion must be in­ves­ti­gated

NOT OFF THE HOOK: Ben Ngubane

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