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Business 14.5.2017 11:19 am

Angry ANC summons Brown … Eskom board in firing line over Molefe debacle

Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown.
Photo: Beeld / Lisa Hnatowicz / Gallo Images

Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown. Photo: Beeld / Lisa Hnatowicz / Gallo Images

Public enterprises minister reportedly told to ‘rescind Molefe’s rehiring or dissolve the board’.

Media reports on Sunday reveal Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has been summoned to Luthuli House to account for her decision to rehire Brian Molefe as Eskom’s CEO following his resignation nearly six months ago.

City Press and the Sunday Times report that on Monday Brown will be told to rescind the rehiring of Molefe or be asked to dissolve the power utility’s board. At the same moment, Molefe is expected to report for duty at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg, where he can expect to find a protest at the gates led by the Congress of the People.

Opposition parties are also in the process of trying to interdict his return.

The governing party has described the Molefe decision as an “insult to the ANC” and the SA Communist Party said over the weekend that it was clear evidence that ANC structures have “gone rogue”.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa has been quoted as saying the governing party has been embarrassed by the decision to support the “immoral and illegal decision”. He told City Press and the Sunday Times the only thing Brown could so was to either change her mind or face being told to get rid of the entire Eskom board.

Sunday Times reports that the ANC is also angry that Molefe resigned as an MP without “informing chief whip Jackson Mthembu or secretary-general Gwede Mantashe”. Mantashe has expressed his strong disapproval of the entire affair.

Molefe, who left Eskom under a cloud following the release of the public protector’s report into state capture late last year, resigned on Friday as MP after only three months on the ANC benches. At Parliament, Molefe earned just over R100,000 a month as an MP whereas he was earning R792‚000 monthly at Eskom, excluding bonuses.

Prior to President Jacob Zuma’s late-night Cabinet reshuffle in March, Molefe was widely tipped as the country’s next finance minister, but the post went to Malusi Gigaba.

The public protector’s report raised questions about Molefe’s proximity to members of the wealthy, politically connected Gupta family, and that the Eskom leadership had stretched procurement rules to give a multimillion-rand coal contract to the Guptas’ Tegeta Exploration and Resources company.

In the wake of the public protector’s report, Molefe resigned “in the interest of good corporate governance” and to “clear” his name. About three months later, in February, Molefe was sworn in as an ANC MP. Subsequently, it emerged that Eskom was about to pay Molefe a R30 million pension pay-out after he applied for early retirement, despite the fact that he had resigned.

Brown objected to the proposal and asked for the Eskom board’s reasoning in formulating the proposed pension payout, as she could not support it. The Eskom board said it decided to rescind his application for early retirement because it could not agree with him on “a mutually beneficial pension proposal”, and then negotiated for him to return to finish his contract which ends in September 2020.

News that Molefe would be returning to Eskom on Monday sparked outrage in the governing ANC and opposition parties, business leadership, trade unions, and civil rights groups due to the adverse findings in the public protector’s report. The ANC condemned as “unfortunate and reckless” the decision by the Eskom board to reinstate Molefe, saying that it would seek engagement with Brown about its rationality.

But on Friday Brown went against the party line and said she believed Molefe’s return to Eskom was a “better value proposition to the South African fiscus that the previous pension proposal”.

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