Cape Town – Businessman Romeo Kumalo has resigned from the Eskom board, 14 months after he joined.
In a letter to Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown, Kumalo said he had to give undivided attention to his other business commitments and projects, a report in the Business Day revealed on Friday.
The news comes after the Mail & Guardian linked him to Gupta-partner Salim Essa on March 24.
“Essa was also a co-director with Eskom board member Romeo Kumalo in the company Ujiri Mining, until Essa’s resignation in August 2015,” it reported.
Kumalo quickly responded, saying the company was dormant, never traded in any lucrative mining deals and “has had no direct links whatsoever with the Gupta family”.
In a letter to M&G dated April 5, he said he served “diligently and honestly on the main board (of Eskom as an independent non-executive director) and as a member of sub-committees.
“We have worked closely with the new management team under the leadership of CEO Brian Molefe to rescue Eskom from a state of perpetual crisis management to a stable power supplier for the country.
“Since the day of my appointment I’ve never been asked by anyone to work with the Gupta family or to take instructions from them or anyone representing them.
“The article sought to place me in a network of alleged corrupt activities and thus damage a reputation that has taken decades of hard, honest work to build.”
In his letter to Brown dated April 12 and seen by Business Day, he said: “As you might be aware, I left corporate and decided to heed the call on black industrialists to participate meaningfully in the mainstream of our economy. I joined the Eskom board to serve and to make a difference at a critical time in our country but, due to time constraints, I’m unable to continue.”
However, the official sale of Glencore’s Optimum coal mine to Gupta-owned Oakbay Investments on Thursday has put the spotlight back on Eskom.
Eskom is buying coal for its Arnot power plant from Optimum, which is being bought by Oakbay’s Tegeta, a company that was also owned by President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane, who last week said he was removing himself from these interests due to political pressure. Optimum is selling 100 000 tonnes of coal a month to Oakbay, a person told Bloomberg in January.
There are concerns that members of the board are linked to the Guptas, which has been accused of influencing members aligned to Zuma, thus giving Optimum a more lucrative deal when the contract is up for renewal.
However, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe has made it clear that no preferential treatment will be given to Optimum, which owes Eskom a R2bn fine.
Eskom told Fin24 in March that Mark Pamensky was appointed to the Eskom board three months after joining the board of Gupta-owned Oakbay Resources and Energy.
"Mr Pamensky’s interests, as with all directors on the Eskom board, are managed in terms of the legal and governance requirements relating to disclosure of personal financial interests," said Phasiwe.
The Guptas announced their resignation from all Oakbay interests and left the country for Dubai last week. This followed intense political and business pressure, with an ANC investigation launching into the role of the Guptas and alleged "state capture" and the withdrawal of business links by the top four banks, auditors and JSE sponsors.
In March, the Eskom board praised its management team and Eskom’s 46 000 employees “for working hard to stabilise its operational and financial performance over the past seven months, resulting in no load shedding being implemented during this period”.
“Eskom has certainly turned the corner, and we are extremely proud of the performance of … Molefe and his team for extricating South Africa out of the clutches of load shedding, and doing so despite a constrained financial position,” said Dr Ben Ngubane.