Heavyweights for Eskom board

2018-01-21 05:46
Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza. Picture: Brett Steele

Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza. Picture: Brett Steele

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Eskom has a new board after chairperson Zethembe Khoza quit yesterday due to pressure from funders and potential investors over the power utility’s huge debt.

The embattled power generator will now be overseen by Telkom chairperson Jabu Mabuza, who was appointed acting chairperson of Eskom.

Acting chief executive Phakamani Hadebe is taking over from Sean Maritz who held the position since October.

The rest of the board includes:

• Former MTN chief executive Sifiso Dabengwa, who now sits on the board of technology group Gijima;

• Sindi Mabaso-Koyana, executive chairperson of African Women Chartered Accountants Investment Holdings;

• Mark Lamberti, non-executive director of Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) and founder of Massmart Holdings;

• Professor Tshepo Mongalo, associate professor and head of law at Monash South Africa;

• Health Ombudsman Professor Malegapuru Makgoba;

• Busisiwe Mavuso, BLSA’s chief operations officer;

• Nelisiwe Magubane, former director-general of the department of energy and a former engineer at Eskom;

• Dr Rod Crompton, a regulatory member of petroleum at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa);

• George Sebulela, president and chief executive of Sebvest Group and secretary-general of the Black Business Council;

• Dr Pulane Molokwane, a nuclear physicist and environmental specialist;

• Dr Banothile Makhubela, an independent non-executive director at Eskom; and

• Jacky Molisane, deputy director-general at the department of public enterprises.

Hadebe is Eskom’s third chief executive in months.

Former acting chief executive Matshela Koko – who was reinstated last month after being cleared in a disciplinary hearing, has now been ousted.

The power utility is billions of rands in debt and the government could be forced to take over and settle the bill from the beginning of next month.

Hadebe will inherit an organisation with about R160bn worth of debt.

Suspended chief financial officer Anoj Singh also left the power utility after he was suspended prior to the start of the parliamentary inquiry into state capture, which resumes on Tuesday.

"Toxic environment"

On Friday senior managers at Eskom wrote a memorandum to ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa complaining about governance, ethics, leadership and financial issues at the Eskom.

They said they want those who brought Eskom into disrepute to face the music and warned that transgressors should not get golden handshakes because it “perpetuated the toxic environment”.

They also wanted a new board and executive management.

Yesterday the ANC welcomed the speedy intervention to stop the rot at the power utility.

The appointment of an experienced, qualified and credible leadership to the board of Eskom, as well as the injunction to immediately remove all executives implicated in corruption and other acts of impropriety at Eskom was in line with party resolutions taken at its elective conference in December.

City Press has learnt that Eskom has been embroiled in a cat and mouse game with the country’s banks for the past seven months with no solution in sight.

Government insiders said the power utility had been defaulting on its debt for a long time but banks had been reluctant to demand their money because they feared such a move would cause South Africa’s economy to collapse.

Instead, they have been refusing to renew their contracts with the troubled state entity and have called for an overhaul of the Eskom board, as well as the board of South African Airways.

Except for two members, the national airline’s board still looks the same.

“As with SAA, the banks don’t want the [old] Eskom board.

“They don’t want Khoza, the management at Eskom and people like Koko, Singh and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown,” said a source with firsthand information.

Khoza resigned yesterday “in the interest of the country” but opposition parties said this did not absolve him from the role he played in the decline of the power utility.

Among the proposals expected to be announced soon by ANC Ramaphosa would be to remove Eskom from the department of public enterprises.

Rejected

In November, Eskom was rejected by Absa, the only bank that has been lending them money for months.

This after Eskom pleaded with the bank, saying if it did not receive the funds they would not be able to pay their suppliers.

The state only has so much money available in its coffers to bail out Eskom, and the latest developments mean government will be left with no choice but to get rid of the board – and Brown – by tomorrow.

However, this would happen only if President Jacob Zuma fired Brown or signed a proclamation removing Eskom from her department and placing it under the auspices of another department.

Insiders told City Press this was why the ANC’s national executive committee statement issued yesterday spoke about “coordination between government and the ANC”.

Due to the sensitivity of the Eskom matter, it was only discussed during a meeting of the party’s top six officials on Monday.

City Press has learnt that Zuma was not keen on these changes.

The perception many party insiders held was that this was because Eskom “is obviously his and the Guptas’ cash cow”.

There were concerns that the moment South Africa borrowed money from lenders outside of the country to save Eskom, the country’s credit rating would be downgraded even further.

These developments may also determine whether Zuma is made to leave office now or later.

But insiders told City Press that as it stands, an ultimatum was issued to him, to the effect that he either cooperates or gets recalled.

Another source also confirmed that a number of senior officials facing allegations of corruption at Eskom would soon be sacked.

Ramaphosa has long expressed the need for a new board at Eskom.

According to another source, a clean-up of state-owned entities was central to his political overview at the ANC NEC meeting on Thursday.

Those in his camp said he felt there was no need for him to leave the country to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland if the issues at the power utility were not resolved.

Insiders said Ramaphosa’s view was that they may as well send a minister or they would come back to a collapsed economy.

He was so preoccupied with the matter that he had to leave the NEC meeting to talk to Zuma about it.

A commonly held view was that Zumaand his associates, caused the crisis faced by SOEs.

Read more on:    eskom  |  zethembe khoza

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