'What we are doing can't be emotional': Mantashe to ex-nuclear board

15 January 2020 - 10:08 By JEFF WICKS
Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe.
Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe.

Mineral resources and energy minister Gwede Mantashe has hit back at the four board members of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA (Necsa) who resigned on Tuesday, insisting that the cleanup of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) under his purview should not be “emotional”.

TimesLIVE earlier reported that Pulane Kingston, Dr Pulane Molokwane, Matlhodi Ngwenya and Bishen Singh had jumped ship and written to Mantashe to lay bare their grievances. Chief among them was that Necsa had been “technically insolvent” since 2016. “Upon assuming our positions as directors [late in 2018] it became apparent that Necsa has been making losses from as far back as 2014,” it reads.

The company, tasked with research in nuclear energy and the processing and storage of nuclear material, had struggled to pay salaries to staff in December. To mitigate years of losses, amounting to as much as R554m, said the former board members, Necsa had extended debt through loans, overdraft facilities and by dipping into emergency funding.

On Wednesday, Mantashe insisted that he had not seen the letter and disputed that four board members had been in active service.

“The board only had three directors, as one of them had resigned earlier. What we are saying is that we have been working to restore stability to Necsa and part of that has been constituting the board properly,” he said.

Mantashe said work to augment the board after a series of resignations in 2018 had been ongoing and significant strides had been made.

This flies in the face of claims made by the directors in their missive. “Despite our repeated requests to you since July 2019 to urgently augment the board, this matter has not been prioritised, making it more difficult to function properly.” The four said despite their best and strained efforts to keep the firm afloat, they had consistently lacked Mantashe’s support.

The minister said efforts to stabilise Necsa were part of a macro effort within his portfolio.

“When I took over this department none of the entities had a fully constituted board and there was not one that had a permanent CEO. We are making efforts to change that and what we are doing cannot be emotional,” he said.