As Nene awaits news on Eskom top job, DA vows Khoza won't go scot-free

Cape Town - Former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene told Fin24 on Saturday that the matter of whether he’ll be appointed as Eskom chair is “still under consideration” and he hopes for a conclusion before the end of the day. 

Telkom chairperson and President of Business Unity South Africa Jabu Mabuza is also reportedly in the running for the Eskom chair position following the resignation of current chair Zethembe Khoza.

When contacted by Fin24 Mabuza said he was unable to confirm whether he’s been appointed as the Department of Public Enterprises should make the official announcement about Eskom board positions.

Nene was axed by President Jacob Zuma in December 2015 who explained at the time that he was in the running for a job at the newly formed BRICS bank. This position never materialised and Nene joined the board of financial services company Allan Gray as a non-executive director in April 2016.

Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance charged on Saturday that resigning as Eskom chairperson does not absolve Khoza of the role he played in the power producer’s decline.

The opposition party said in a statement that it will not allow Khoza, or any other person implicated in corruption at state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or State Capture, to escape the consequences.

Khoza confirmed to Fin24 by phone 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.

He said that his resignation was "not necessarily" due to pressure from Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba, who told journalists this week that the financial situation at the state-owned company 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.

Khoza said he was unaware who has been chosen as his replacement.

The DA said the leadership vacuum at Eskom following Khoza’s resignation "once again shows Brown’s complete inability to manage our SOEs".

“It is imperative that there is no unnecessary delay in the appointment of a new Eskom chair and CEO. We cannot allow speculation to do even more damage to our besieged energy utility.”

The party said the appointment of a suitable and capable chairperson and CEO is only the first step in helping Eskom recover from the chronic mismanagement and looting which has brought the parastatal to the brink of collapse.

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 also hinted that a shakeup at Eskom is 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.

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 appointments 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.

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.

The new positions, after the ANC's 54th national conference are yet to be announced.

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