It was in the interest of justice for Brian Molefe to have stepped down as Eskom CEO in light of the allegations against him in the public protector’s state capture report, but certainly not for him to receive a R30-million pension payout, the high court has heard.
Legal argument commenced in the High Court in Pretoria today in an application by the Democratic Alliance and trade union Solidarity in which they ask the court to set aside decisions of the Eskom board relating to Molefe’s early retirement payout and his brief reinstatement and to order Molefe to pay back the more than R11 million he had already received from Eskom’s pension fund.
He spent a brief stint in parliament as an ANC MP before Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown in May reinstated him at Eskom, but Eskom formally dismissed him less than a month later.
Molefe is fighting this decision in the Labour Court, and appointed two senior advocates to fight the DA and Solidarity’s application in the High Court.
Molefe insisted he never actually resigned, that the Eskom Board had made an “honest mistake” when it agreed to his early retirement and that he remained Eskom’s CEO.
Counsel for Solidarity, Anton Katz SC, argued the court could take judicial note of recent media reports that Molefe had apparently now become a highly paid Colonel in the SANDF.
Brown and Eskom agreed with argument by the DA and Solidarity that Molefe had resigned, and that he was not entitled to the massive pension payout. They gave notice that they would abide by the court’s decision.
Paul Kennedy SC, for the DA, argued Molefe had not mentioned a word about his early retirement to the public or the minister when he announced his departure from Eskom. He applied “under the radar” for early retirement on the very same day, which Eskom’s Board approved 10 days later.
He argued this was part of Molefe’s manoeuvring to get money he knew he was not entitled to. It was inconceivable that a senior official like Molefe, who handled billions of rands in public money, would say nothing about the fact that he was trying to get this vast amount of money behind the scenes, he added.
Kennedy argued that all of the evidence pointed to Molefe resigning voluntarily and then attempting to turn his resignation into an early retirement. Molefe did not correct Brown when she said so and the Eskom board also noted that he had resigned.
He argued that Brown’s decision to reinstate Molefe under the mistaken belief that it would save the public purse R30 million was clearly irrational, as everyone accepted he was not entitled to a pension because he was on a fixed-term contract.
Kennedy asked how Molefe could explain what he was doing in parliament if he was still working for Eskom as he claimed.
Molefe claimed he was on “unpaid leave” during his stint in parliament and that he had believed he was entitled to an early retirement pension, as he had been appointed for an indefinite period.
The application continues.