Gordhan grills Eskom board in parliament

23 May 2017 - 14:49 By Ernest Mabuza
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan
Image: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan grilled Eskom board members on Tuesday as the state company’s directors appeared in parliament to explain the reappointment of Brian Molefe.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises on Tuesday demanded answers about the real status of Molefe’s departure from the parastatal in November last year.

It was unclear whether Molefe resigned‚ retired or was retrenched when he left Eskom on December 31 before being sworn is as MP.

Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown informed the committee on Tuesday that she had filed an affidavit with the high court in Pretoria‚ stating she would abide by the court’s decision in the application by the Democratic Alliance to set aside the reappointment.

  • 'I did not anticipate the level of vitriol' - Brown on withdrawing her opposition to Molefe court casePublic Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has withdrawn her opposition to a court application by the Democratic Alliance requesting that the reappointment of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe be set aside. 

She told the committee that when Molefe quit Eskom in November 2016‚ she was under the impression that he had resigned.

“I was not aware that he had applied for early retirement. This I only learned in April 2017‚ after reading in the media that Mr Molefe was receiving a R30m pay-out from Eskom‚ and asking Eskom’s board to make a more prudent deal‚” she told the parliamentarians.

Brown said she did not expect that society would universally welcome news of Molefe’s return to Eskom following the allegations levelled against him in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report. She said she also did not anticipate the level of vitriol.

  • Full statement: Brown withdraws opposition to DA's Molefe casePublic Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has withdrawn her opposition to a court application by the DA to have Eskom CEO Brian Molefe's reappointment set aside. 

“I expected that his achievements as a technocrat‚ the fact that he would be under enormous scrutiny‚ and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty would bring some balance to the debate.”

Brown said there was a presumption of guilt – despite the Public Protector’s report being taken on review.

“As a society‚ as politicians‚ as media‚ we must beware of criminalisation by association‚ particularly in the absence of anyone having been convicted of a crime.”

  • READ IN FULL: Eskom affidavits on reinstatement of Brian MolefeEmbattled Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was considered to be on "unpaid leave" after his initial resignation from the power utility in November last year‚ according to court papers filed on Monday.  

However‚ MPs did not agree with the explanation.

The DA’s Natasha Mazzone questioned the decision to rehire Molefe.

“This whole situation has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. It is a slap in the face of good governance.”

She said when Molefe left the state entity‚ a memorandum sent to Eskom’s 48‚000 employees said Molefe had resigned.

“I find it very confusing to accept one minute it was a retrenchment‚ another minute it is early retirement‚ and a resignation.

“I think we now run the risk of the word Molefe going from a noun to a verb.”

  • 'I never resigned' - MolefeEmbattled Eskom CEO Brian Molefe was considered to be on "unpaid leave" after his initial resignation from the power utility in November last year‚ according to court papers filed on Monday.  

Mazzone said Eskom had advertised the position of the CEO.

“Why was this position advertised if Mr Molefe was simply on leave‚ why was it advertised?”

Floyd Shivambu from the Economic Freedom Fighters said Brown accepted Molefe’s resignation in November last year.

He said the minister also approved the appointment of Matshela Koko as acting Eskom CEO due to the resignation of Molefe.

“Again the board did not clarify that Brian Molefe had not resigned but had retired.”

Shivambu said the reason why the board of Eskom advertised the position of Eskom CEO was because there was a vacancy‚ because Molefe had resigned and was sworn in as MP.

Narend Singh of the Inkatha Freedom Party said this was a matter of good governance.

“Did Mr Molefe resign? Was he on unpaid leave? Why advertise for the position of CEO if he had already resigned? Did Mr Molefe commit perjury when he was sworn in as MP. Was the ANC aware he had not resigned from Eskom?”

Gordhan said answers provided by the Eskom board lacked credibility.

“Context matters. The context is the public is connecting the dots. It is aware of what you as the board are doing and not doing. They are aware you are abusing state property and resources in the name of yourself and not the public.

“That you are part of a conspiracy to capture Eskom for the benefit of a few. That is the reality.”

Gordhan asked who had instructed Brown to rehire Molefe.

“I don’t think we are going to get a truthful answer. I have seen some board members on TV‚ what interaction do they have with (Gupta-aligned) Oakbay?”

Gordhan said Eskom was far too important an entity to become the toy of a few individuals.

-TMG Digital/TimesLIVE

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