Eskom chair quits 'in the interest of the country'

Eskom chairperson Zethembe Khoza. (Gallo Images / Business Day / Russell Roberts)
Eskom chairperson Zethembe Khoza. (Gallo Images / Business Day / Russell Roberts)

Johannesburg - Eskom chairperson Zethembe Khoza confirmed to Fin24 on Saturday that he submitted his resignation to Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown on Friday and he's waiting for her to accept it.

"I think it's in [the] good interest of the country...after all the noise, it's better for me," he told Fin24 by phone.

He said that his resignation was "not necessarily" due to pressure from Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who told journalist this week that the financial situation at the state-owned company (SOC) requires urgent attention.

"I was putting out fires on a daily basis, so I think it's good to give new people a chance," Khoza said.

Neither Brown nor her spokesperson Colin Cruywagen could be reached for comment.

Rumours were rife on Saturday that former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was the favourite to replace Khoza, but the outgoing chair said he was unaware who had been chosen as his replacement.

ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Enoch Godongwana told Fin24 on Saturday he was unable to comment on changes to the Eskom board.

When asked by Fin24 if changes needed to be made to the top structures at the power utility, he answered "of course, yes".

Godongwana previously chaired the NEC sub-committee for economic transformation.

Khoza is the third Eskom chairperson to have tendered his resignation in as many years. He was appointed in an acting capacity in June 2017, after Ben Ngubane quit. Ngubane replaced Zola Tsotsi in March 2015 who later told the Eskom parliamentary inquiry he was forced to exit.

Brown appointed Khoza as Eskom chairperson on 8 December 2017, despite the controversies around him, for a period of three years, subject to annual review.

Khoza’s appointment as permanent chair in December earned the ire of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) who said the retention of 7 Eskom directors on the new board, including Khoza, together with the two new appointment was a blow to the parastatal’s sustainability 

Lobby group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) also pointed out that the board, including Khoza had approved former CEO Brian Molefe’s controversial reappointment and R30m pension payout.

The Sunday Times reported they’d seen a signed affidavit in which evidence leader at the Parliamentary Eskom Inquiry, Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara claims that Minister of State Security Bongani Bongo was instructed by Khoza to derail the probe.

Khoza denied the allegations.

Former acting CEO Matshela Koko and suspended CFO Anoj Singh were set to testify before MPs next week.

Government under pressure to act

Eskom’s financial woes have mounted in recent months and Standard and Poor’s Global Ratings warned this week that it was in ‘clear danger of default’ on its government backed debt.

Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba hinted that a shakeup at Eskom was on the cards at a pre-World Economic Forum breakfast on Thursday, where he said some board managers and senior officials did not grasp the seriousness of the situation.

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