Ngubane resigns ‘under a cloud’
Timing fuels suspicions and calls for accountability
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