Citizen Reporter
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4 minute read
19 Jun 2017
11:25 am

Who is in charge of Eskom right now?

Citizen Reporter

The Gupta-linked Anoj Singh is reportedly taking day-to-day decisions, though it is not clear how he was given this responsibility.

Former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe (right) shakes hands with then-president Jacob Zuma, 14 June 2017. Picture: Flickr / GCIS

After the public enterprises minister reportedly rejected the then Eskom chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane’s suggestion that Zethembe Khosa be appointed the power utility’s acting CEO, Eskom management appears to currently be without an ultimate operational decision maker.

Speaking for management, Khulu Phasiwe told The Citizen that the man at the centre of many #GuptaEmails and tender irregularities, and the only executive director on the board, chief financial officer (CFO) Anoj Singh, is, however, currently in charge of the day-to-day management of the Megawatt Park-based state-owned entity.

Weekend media reports detailed how, after Lynne Brown rejected Ngubane’s recommendation, he twice threatened to report Brown to the president. The City Press reported that, on both occasions, Brown dared Ngubane to go ahead.

Aggravating the situation are reports that Eskom’s five remaining non-executive directors, including acting chairman Zethembe Khoza, are apparently facing removal at the power utility’s annual general meeting taking place this Friday.

Colin Cruywagen, speaking for Brown, said that the decision to apportion part of Eskom’s group chief executive responsibilities to Singh is “an internal arrangement” taken by Eskom management.

He would not be drawn into whether the minister was in agreement with this decision save to say “she is still applying her mind”. Cruywagen also reiterated that the minister had gone on record as saying she might “rotate” the board.

Business Day is reporting that the other board members, Dr Pathmanathan Naidoo, Chwayita Mabude and Giovanni Leonardi, are understood to have been left vulnerable by the departure of Ngubane and some of them being implicated in the #GuptaEmails saga.

“We could not let Eskom remain without management and, for that reason the CFO was put in charge of the organisation to ensure decisions are taken and work continues,” Phasiwe said.

When queried on which structure, in terms of delegation of authority and the shareholder compact, had taken the decision to delegate Singh to steer the ship at Eskom, Phasiwe indicated that Khulani Qoma, who speaks on behalf of the board, could answer that question.

Qoma wrote in a message to The Citizen: “As required, the Board requested Anoj Singh to caretake certain aspects of the GCE’s [group chief executive’s] role pending the minister’s interim appointment.”

He did not, however, elaborate on what those aspects are and who else is ‘caretaking’ the balance of the GCE’s responsibilities, but added that “the minister has decided to formally look at the corporate governance allegations as to enable the requisite progress in this regard”.

Phasiwe dismissed speculation that, in the middle of a harsh winter, Eskom may not be able to keep the lights on.

“Should that happen, it won’t be load-shedding, it could probably be pressure on the grid and cable theft,” he said in reference to some west Joburg suburbs being without electricity over the long weekend.

In a related development, Brown reportedly filed a scathing affidavit in which she admonished former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe for his urgent bid in the Labour Court to have his removal overturned.

The public enterprises minister is rejecting the urgency of the matter as Molefe is “very wealthy” and he can “wait in line” like all South Africans for his matter to be heard at a later date as determined by the court.

The minister’s about-turn is now seen as an attempt on her part to distance herself from the sheningans that saw Molefe’s resignation being accepted by the minister, who consequently appointed Matshela Koko as the acting CEO, Molefe spectacularly returning to Eskom as CEO and the board’s decision to reappoint him being rescinded by Brown.

In sharp contrast to the overwhelming support she had earlier heaped on Molefe, Ngubane and the board in May, Brown is now telling the courts the reappointment of Molefe – who had bizzarely served as an MP during the period he described as “extended leave” – was “suspicious”.

She also states that she has lost confidence in the board. Questioning the contention by Molefe that he was entitled to early retirement in contravention of Eskom pension fund rules, Brown is challenging both Molefe and Ngubane to be subjected to oral evidence.

This will give Brown’s legal counsel the chance to cross-examine the two men to explain under oath the events that led to Molefe’s return to the power utility, despite him having told the nation earlier he was resigning to “clear his name” and in the interest of good corporate governance.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who was this morning expected to release findings into investigations of state capture that may cover the suspected looting of Eskom, on Thursday night told eNCA she, too, had been surprised by Molefe’s return to Eskom without his name being cleared.

Mkhwebane was asked about her much-criticised statement that Molefe’s departure had been a “loss”.

Like Brown, Mkhwebane had apparently made a high speed U-turn, further telling the news channel that Molefe’s return to Eskom was indeed questionable.