ANC proxy war looms over Molefe rehire

2017-05-21 05:51
Brian Molefe. (Janet Heard)

Brian Molefe. (Janet Heard)

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Johannesburg - Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown is willing to let Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe go if the courts set aside his reappointment.

In stark contrast to the power utility’s spirited defence of the controversial decision behind Molefe’s return a few days ago, City Press has learnt that Brown had “always left the door open” to the possibility that his reinstatement by Eskom’s board – four months after Molefe resigned under a cloud of corruption allegations – might not pass legal muster.

Sources close to the minister were also wary of what seemed to be “gaps in Eskom’s case” regarding the application of its pension and provident fund rules to Molefe.

Could give no timeline

After a crisis meeting with the ANC on Monday during which the party indicated its “discomfort” with Molefe’s about-turn, there were doubts that Brown would budge on her decision, signalling a looming clash of positions between the ANC and government – given that Molefe was seen to enjoy President Jacob Zuma’s support.

Speaking to City Press on Friday, ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa confirmed that the minister had been instructed to reverse Molefe’s reappointment.

Kodwa said the governing party could give no timeline for when this should be done as certain processes needed to be followed.

He said the issue of dissolving the board did not come up.

The ANC last week expressed outrage at the reinstatement, calling it an “embarrassment” and “illegal”.

Brown’s spokesperson, Colin Cruywagen, said her “meeting with ANC officials resolved that government takes responsibility for managing the matter [and] a process is under way to consider available options”.

Cruywagen said because the matter was before a court, Brown was “constrained to comment any further”.

Major deals

The DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have filed two-part applications with the high court.

In the first part, they are seeking an interim interdict to prevent Molefe from performing any functions or receiving any benefits from Eskom.

In the second, they are seeking to have Molefe’s reinstatement scrapped.

The affidavits filed by the two opposition parties quote extensively from former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s damning State of Capture report, which implicated Molefe.

The EFF said since neither Eskom nor Molefe had taken the report on review, its preliminary findings stood and were binding. Molefe left Eskom in November, saying he was doing so “in the interest of good corporate governance” following the report’s release. It showed his close links with Zuma’s benefactors, the Guptas, whose associates had major deals with the power utility.

The parties argue that Molefe’s resignation at the time – noted by the board and Brown in official statements – came with his admission that the report had harmed his and, by extension, Eskom’s reputation.

They point to the fact that since nothing in the report has been shown to be inaccurate, the harm done remains. Therefore, Molefe cannot be fit for the job.

Quoting from Eskom’s conflict of interest policy, the EFF argues that the ownership structure of Tegeta – the mining company in which the Gupta family has interests and with which Eskom has signed controversial contracts – illustrates a clear conflict for Molefe and the board.

Radical economic transformation agenda

“The transactions discussed below, which are discussed in detail in the report, indicate prima facie evidence that the board and/or Mr Molefe used their influence and positions in Eskom for the commercial and financial benefit of Tegeta at the expense of Eskom’s suppliers and Eskom,” the application reads.

Meanwhile, the ANC’s national executive committee – the highest decision-making body between conferences – will meet next weekend. In what is expected to be a face-off between Zuma and anti-Zuma supporters, it is understood that the issue of Molefe’s reinstatement will be part of the proxy war. It is expected that the pro-Zuma camp will go to bat for Molefe.

A source close to the Guptas said Zuma needed Molefe at Eskom to consolidate his legacy as his term of office ends in 2019.

The insider said Eskom had been identified as one of the vehicles through which Zuma could show off his newfound radical economic transformation agenda.

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Read more on:    anc  |  eskom  |  brian molefe  |  lynne brown  |  jacob zuma  |  johannesburg  |  politics

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