News / South Africa

Gosebo Mathope
2 minute read
23 May 2017
12:14 pm

Account for mess and don’t sub-judice us, MPs tell Brown and Eskom chair

Gosebo Mathope

The committee chairperson ordered the minister and board chairperson to answer questions posed by MPs.

Parliament

Members of the portfolio committee on public enterprises have rejected Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown and Eskom chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane’s assertion that Brian Molefe’s matter is sub-judice and told the two they will have to answer MPs questions despite the matter being a subject of a court case.

In her opening remarks, Minister Brown told the committee she had no knowledge of the processes that led to the reappointment at Eskom, while Ngubane told the gathering he would not delve into the granular details of the matter, as he had deposed an affidavit with the court.

Several parties are challenging Molefe’s spectacular return to the helm of the power utility in court.

“The subjudice rule is archaic, and does not apply, and should not be used to shield Eskom from answering questions. The legal opinion from parliament says that Eskom should still account to us as people elected to hold them accountable,” DA chief whip John Steenhuisen told the minister.

He was supported in this view by former Ekurhuleni executive mayor Mondli Gungubele, who told the committee the meeting was a platform for “further engagement” because the credibility of Eskom was important.

Natasha Mazzone of the DA said it was important that answers be solicited from the board and the minister because the name “Molefe has gone from a noun to a verb. Soon we will telling our children not to tell a Molefe”.

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan underscored the importance of not only subjecting Eskom to a parliamentary inquiry with a full forensic audit, as the mess at Eskom was likely to negatively affect the economy.

MPs were also vexed by Eskom’s explanation that Molefe had been on extended leave when he became an MP. This prompted IFP’s Narend Singh to ask whether Molefe and Eskom willfully committed perjury by swearing in an MP who was still in the employ of another state arm.

Chairperson of the committee Zukiswa Rantho later asked a parliamentary legal advisers to give an opinion on the sub-judice. Parliament was then told the sub-judice was inconsistent with the spirit and letter of the constitution that promoted transparency.

Parliament was further told the committee had specific powers to summon people to appear before the committee in executing its oversight responsibility.

“The issue is clear: could you please respond to members’ questions?” Rantho ordered Brown and Ngubane.