Ngubane de­nies spat with Brown

The Star Early Edition - - POLITICS - SIYABONGA MKHWANAZI AND BON­GANI HANS

FOR­MER Eskom chair­per­son Ben Ngubane has de­nied be­ing in­volved in a spat with Pub­lic En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown over the board’s de­ci­sion to pick Zethembe Khoza as the act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive.

Brown, af­ter be­ing sharply crit­i­cised for in­de­ci­sive­ness af­ter Eskom lurched from cri­sis to cri­sis, has sud­denly started crack­ing the whip in a bid to rid the trou­bled elec­tric­ity util­ity of its grow­ing scan­dal-tainted rep­u­ta­tion.

Ngubane yes­ter­day said he had left Eskom on good terms be­cause he was tak­ing up an of­fer else­where – and not be­cause of a spat with Brown.

He con­firmed he had met with Brown to present names of peo­ple who could be ap­pointed act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive.

“We went to talk about the act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tion. Among the names was Zethembe Khoza be­cause he had acted in this po­si­tion be­fore,” he said. “The min­is­ter said we should go back and present her with two more names.”

Ngubane de­clined to give the names of the other peo­ple on the list that was later given to Brown. But he said that at that point he de­cided to leave, not be­cause of the is­sue of names, but be­cause he had re­ceived a job of­fer. He had to re­spond quickly, he said, be­cause the of­fer had a time frame that was about to lapse.

He said other mem­bers of the Eskom board had urged him to stay on un­til the end of the month, but he could not be­cause the of­fer re­quired him to start im­me­di­ately.

He in­sisted he had never fought with Brown.

Ngubane, a for­mer IFP leader whose name has fea­tured promi­nently in the leaked Gupta emails re­lat­ing to state cap­ture, and also in for­mer pub­lic pro­tec­tor Thuli Madon­sela’s State of Cap­ture report, con­firmed last week that he and busi­ness­man Salim Essa, an as­so­ciate of the Gup­tas, had trav­elled to Cen­tral African Repub­lic (CAR) in 2013 to in­ves­ti­gate busi­ness pos­si­bil­i­ties in the oil and gas in­dus­try.

He said Essa had been keen to be part­ners with him.

“The plan was to go to West Africa and to buy oil blocks. Another com­pany from In­dia was go­ing to drill these blocks – and we were go­ing to sell the oil for huge sums of money,” Ngubane said.

He said Essa had ar­ranged a trip to CAR for March 2013, with the Gup­tas hav­ing made a pri­vate jet avail­able to them for the jour­ney.

The trip had been called off be­cause of the civil war in CAR, he said.

Ngubane said his crit­ics were us­ing his re­la­tion­ship with Essa as a stick with which to beat him, ac­cus­ing him of be­ing a Gupta stooge.

Ngubane’s de­par­ture comes on the eve of Eskom’s an­nual gen­eral meet­ing on Fri­day, at which Brown is ex­pected to fire the board.

Brown has taken a tough stance against Eskom’s board and ex­ec­u­tives.

She over­turned the util­ity’s de­ci­sion to give for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Brian Molefe a R30 mil­lion pen­sion pay­out.

The mat­ter is now the sub­ject of lit­i­ga­tion af­ter Molefe chal­lenged his dis­missal.

FED UP: Lynne Brown

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