Lamberti quits Eskom after racial slur
Says judgment did not indicate discrimination
AFTER relentless pressure from political parties and other groups, Eskom board member Mark Lamberti finally quit yesterday. Lamberti, the chief executive of Imperial, had been in the job for four months when allegations of racism and sexism emerged. Last month a High Court decision dealt a blow to his stay on the board.
His resignation from the Eskom board came a day after he wrote to Imperial staff denying that he intended harm when he referred to former employee and accountant Adila Chowan as a “female employment equity” candidate.
Lamberti had denied racism allegations when he took the job to serve on the Eskom board in January following sweeping changes at the power utility. He repeated this in his letter to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza.
The EFF had also wanted Ramaphosa to remove another board member, Sifiso Dabengwa, because he was close to the president.
Ramaphosa admitted in Parliament last month he knew Dabengwa but he was not a business associate of the former MTN boss as alleged by the EFF.
In Lamberti’s letter of resignation that was accepted by Gordhan, he indicated that his decision was motivated by the court judgment delivered on March 23 and he did so in the best interests of the country.
“This decision is motivated by my fiduciary duty to Eskom and my consistent and proven record of acting insofar as possible in the best interests of South Africa. The background to the High Court judgment handed down on March 23 was expounded on fully in my letter of April 2, 2018, to the Eskom chairperson.
“It is essential to emphasise that while mistakes were made and there are important lessons to be learnt, there were no findings in the judgment of race or gender discrimination against AMH, Imperial or myself,” he said.
Lamberti, along with Associated Motor Holdings, was accused by Chowan of race and gender discrimination. She left the company in 2015 and claimed that Lamberti referred to her as a “female employment equity” in front of other managers.
Despite the court judgment, he maintained that he was not found guilty of discrimination. Lamberti said there has been a mainstream and social media frenzy of generally inaccurate commentary. He said that was being fuelled by a political agenda and legally incorrect interpretations of the judgment, which have culminated in the most vitriolic defamation of his character.
“The most telling aspect of this is the call for the minister and indeed the president to remove me from the Eskom board. These developments and the threatened retaliatory actions have reached a point where they may impinge on the tentative but essential progress of Eskom. My fiduciary duty to the company forces me to prevent this insofar as I can by resigning.
“At a more momentous level, the matter could divert the implementation and progress of the president’s espoused vision and the supporting plans of the minister. As one who believes that President Ramaphosa is uniquely qualified to unite government, labour, business and civil society behind an inclusive growth agenda, my duty as a patriot is similarly to facilitate his progress by resigning,” Lamberti said.
He has further added that he would not be accepting any compensation for the work he has done for Eskom so far. He has vowed to return the payments he has since received from the power utility.
“Given that almost all of the board work to date was preparatory, I cannot in good conscience accept any compensation and the fees paid to date will be returned to the company. In conclusion, it is an understatement to say that this matter has been devastating to me and my family. A lifetime of a clear conscience and a distinguished record of business leadership appear to have been in vain. My fervent hope is that the ‘next third’ of my life will present opportunities to serve my country in a capacity as valued as my Eskom directorship was,” he said.
Gordhan said Lamberti must be commended for taking the difficult decision to put the interests of Eskom, the board and the country above all else.
Mark Lamberti was accused of race and gender discrimination by a female employee.