5 blemishes from Ngubane's checkered past

Former Eskom chair Ben Ngubane. (Pic: Gallo Images)
Former Eskom chair Ben Ngubane. (Pic: Gallo Images)

Johannesburg – Outgoing Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane is leaving behind a blemished track record at the power utility.

Ngubane's resignation as chair late on Monday came as a shock to the rest of the board, said spokesperson Khulani Qoma. Subject to Cabinet approval, Eskom will appoint a new chair at an annual general meeting next Friday.

READ: Eskom board shocked by Ngubane’s resignation, expects new chair next week

Ngubane joined Eskom as a non-executive director in December 2014 and served as interim board chairperson in March 2015 before being appointed in the role in October 2015. He took over from chair Zola Tsotsi.

But before his tenure at Eskom, Ngubane was Minister of Arts and Culture and Premiere of KwaZulu-Natal in the 90s. He was also chairperson of Land Bank and on the board of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

Fin24 collated several matters of poor governance and business blunders which took place under Ngubane’s watch as he served in leadership positions.

1. The appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng

Findings by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report When Governance and Ethics Fail showed that Hlaudi Motsoeneng committed fraud on his CV by claiming he had a matric certificate, News24 reported. However the SABC had not taken disciplinary action against him. The SABC instead launched its own inquiry in which it justified Motsoeneng’s appointment.

READ: I saved the SABC – Ngubane

During the Parliamentary inquiry into the fitness of the state broadcaster’s board earlier this year, Ngubane defended Motsoeneng. He explained that academic qualifications had not been necessary for the acting chief operating officer position, to which Motsoeneng had been promoted. He also defended a 63% salary increase for Motsoeneng. 

The inquiry also revealed that Ngubane instructed group executive officer Phil Molefe to sign a R500 000 salary hike for Motsoeneng, City Press reported. 

Ngubane added that during his time as chairperson, he saved the public broadcaster which was bankrupt when he joined the board.

2. CAR bribe for oil exploration rights

Emails reveal that in 2013, Ngubane and Gupta associate Salim Essa who were directors of Gade Oil and Gas, planned to secure oil exploration rights in the Central African Republic, News24 reported.

The exchanges with a representative of the oil and minerals minister indicate a possible bribe to be paid to the minister. The bid eventually did not go through.

READ: EXPOSED: #GuptaEmails show Ngubane, Guptas linked to CAR 'bribe' talks

3. Pressured former mines minister to help Guptas

In May this year former mining minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi alleged former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe and Ngubane pressured him to help the Guptas take over Glencore’s coal mine in 2016, Fin24 reported.

According to Ramatlhodi, Molefe and Ngubane held a meeting with him, requesting that he use his authority to suspend the mining licences of Glencore. He refused to do so and was later removed as mines minister by Zuma and redeployed to public service.

His replacement, Mosebenzi Zwane, allegedly met with Glencore CEO Ivan Glasenberg in Zurich to facilitate the sale of the mine to Gupta-owned Tegeta. 

Ngubane later rubbished claims that he tried to pressure Ramatlhodi. 

READ: Ramatlhodi spills beans on how Molefe 'helped' Guptas

4. Reinstatement of Brian Molefe as Eskom CEO

Ngubane had oversight over Molefe’s initial appointment as chief executive, as well as of his retirement package agreement, and his eventual reinstatement.

In a letter to Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown, Ngubane detailed how the board had set up an early retirement package for Molefe.

Following his resignation in 2016, reports surfaced indicating that Molefe was to be paid R30m. Thereafter Brown requested the board to review the decision and to find an alternative solution as the payment could not be justified. Under Ngubane’s leadership, the board decided to reappoint Molefe as chief executive.

The decision led to public outcry and eventually an inter-ministerial committee ordered the board to rescind the reappointment.

READ: Letter reveals Brown knew about Molefe's early retirement deal

5. Huntrex liquidation

Ngubane and his wife are facing criminal charges laid by the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), related to the liquidation of their company Huntrex 305.

The private company, of which the Ngubanes are sole directors and shareholders, owns Zululand Quarries, Natal Sands and Hanis Investments. Zululand Quarries and Natal Sands particularly own mining rights.

READ: OUTA lays criminal charges against Ngubane

The Ngubane’s could not pay back a R50m loan from Ithala Development Finance Corporation to finance the company, leading to its liquidation. A sale to a possible buyer was not concluded after Ngubane produced share certificates showing that he and his wife were sole owners of the businesses and as a result the mining rights.

However the liquidators have reason to believe these share certificates are fraudulent as there is no proof the Ngubane’s bought the Huntrex shares. The liquidators filed a court application at the Durban High Court, the matter is to be heard later this year, News24 reported. 

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