Cape Town – Did Brian Molefe resign, retire or was he retrenched as Eskom CEO? More importantly, will he be retained as chief executive following his surprise return to the state power utility?
These questions may only be answered in the North Gauteng High Court as part of the Democratic Alliance’s application to have his reappointment reversed.
Parliament’s public enterprises committee had hoped to get answers from Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and the Eskom board on Friday, but this was scrapped as the matter is sub judice.
Committee chairperson Zukiswa Rantho said they wanted to “listen and hear what is happening from all affected parties”.
However, she said in a statement on Wednesday: “We are unable to discuss the matter as it is sub judice and, as the committee we are unable to do proper oversight as planned.”
“The committee wishes to express its disappointment in the latest developments,” it said.
The committee's failed attempt at oversight follows the African National Congress' directive that Molefe’s reappointment should be reversed and Parliament was told to handle the situation on Tuesday.
Clarity on whether Molefe resigned, retired or was retrenched will be a factor as to whether his reappointment was legal.
When he stepped down in November 2016, it was believed he had resigned to clear his name. This followed the public protector’s State of Capture report, which implicated him as giving the Guptas undue benefit regarding coal contracts.
However, it then emerged he had received an early pension pay-out of R30m. After Brown apparently learnt about this in the media, she ordered Eskom to rescind this pay-out. The Eskom board then resolved with Molefe to bring him back as chief executive instead. This took effect on Monday.
Making matters murkier, Business Day deputy editor Carol Paton on Wednesday reported that a retrenchment policy might have been used to approve the R30m pay-out.
“Eskom Pension and Provident Fund CE Sibusiso Luthuli has justified the fund’s decision to grant Eskom CE Brian Molefe a R30m pension pay-out on grounds of early retirement on the basis of a rule pertaining to retrenchment,” Paton wrote.
Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane added to the pension pay-out debate on Tuesday, saying that when Molefe started as Eskom CEO in 2015, “there was a problem because we (he) came with an understanding that he was going to be permanent”.
“After we had signed those contracts it came about (through Cabinet) that it can't be permanent; it must be five years,” he said on the sidelines of the African Utility Week in Cape Town.
“The losses that he would suffer because of that change came to the fore and our people in governance sat with him, recommended to the board (this is way back - 2015) that we buy 10 years' pension for him to compensate for the gap that we created in his pension when he retired in five years’ time."
Meanwhile, Brown said on Wednesday that she will talk to President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to resolve the controversial return of Molefe.
Brown was summoned to Luthuli House on Monday and ordered to rescind Molefe's return to the power utility. She met with the party's top six, which include Zuma and Ramaphosa.
"The meeting agreed that the government must resolve the matter. Minister Brown is in discussion with the president and deputy president on the matter," Brown's spokesperson Colin Cruywagen said.
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