Ngubane denies spat with Brown
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