Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
25 Apr 2022
12:25 pm

‘Badge of honour’: Eskom’s Busisiwe Mavuso stands by her decision to walk out of Scopa meeting

Thapelo Lekabe

Mavuso says will not be told to behave herself like a 'naughty 12-year-old school girl'.

Eskom board member and Business Leadership SA (BLSA) Picture: Gallo Images.

Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso says she stands by her views and her decision to walk out of Friday’s meeting of parliament’s standing committee on public accounts (Scopa).

Mavuso had a heated exchange with Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa after she said Eskom’s current board and CEO, André de Ruyter, would not be the “fall guy” for the mess at the embattled power utility that she attributed to the ANC-led government.

The Eskom board member, who’s also the CEO of Business Leadership SA, was responding to a question from MPs after their oversight visit to inspect Eskom’s operations.

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Mavuso told MPs Eskom’s board was willing to be held accountable for decisions made during their tenure, but could not answer to their predecessor’s failures to complete Kusile and Medupi power stations on time, among other matters.

‘Politics of the gutter’

Mavuso on Monday reiterated her views during an interview with Radio 702.

She said she took exception to Hlengwa giving her an ultimatum to excuse herself and telling her to behave herself like a “naughty 12-year-old school girl“.

“I stand by my decision to walk out. That was disrespectful and actually very derogatory,” Mavuso said.

“If that conduct of walking out is politics of the gutter, as he [Hlengwa] puts it, then I wear politics of the gutter as a badge of honour. I’m happy to actually be accused of exercising politics of the gutter,” she added.

A defiant Mavuso said Hlengwa was being unreasonable for reacting as he did towards her and for labelling her remarks as “theatrics”

She said she was not playing to the gallery for laying the blame for Eskom’s challenges to the ANC, saying that she was merely responding to a question posed to her.

“Unfortunately, there are things that we cannot answer to. [It’s] not because we don’t want to, but because they predate this board and that is a fact. There is no way I can answer to Medupi and Kusile without referring to the history.”

‘Absolutely ludicrous’

MPs should not ask questions if they are not going to like the responses they get, Mavuso said.

“Don’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answer. If he didn’t want to hear my answer, then his framing of the meeting was incorrect.

“And to now claim that I went into that meeting with a prepared speech, it’s absolutely ludicrous. What prepared speech because I answered a question that he put very strongly to the board,” she said.

ANC deployee

Mavuso said she was not deployed to the Eskom board by the ANC and believes that board members should exercise their fiduciary duties with independence.

She said if MPs wanted state-owned enterprises to be filled with people who would “behave” like she was told by Hlengwa, then they should say so.

“It is that thinking that is precisely problematic. When we get to these boards, we sit there as independent professionals charged with providing an independent view on the running of the utility and responsible for the overall customs and to act in the best interests of the company stakeholders, not the shareholders,” Mavuso said.

Hlengwa’s response

In response to Mavuso’s comments, Hlengwa said he was not going to engage in a public spat with her.

He said Scopa was unhappy with Eskom’s board regarding recommendations the committee had made to them on the completion of power stations under construction.

Hlengwa said he believes that the buck should stop with the current board of the parastatal.

“Eskom is not performing and delivering on its core mandate which is to supply electricity to the grid. So who else do we ask; where do we pose the questions to. Those questions go to the board and the executives,” Hlengwa said.

‘Political expedition’

Hlengwa also accused Mavuso of playing politics instead of being accountable to Parliament.

He said Scopa was not meeting with Eskom’s management and board on a “political expedition” and their meeting was not a referendum on De Ruyter’s leadership.

“Some of us in our political capacities agree with her that this is an ANC mess. That is not in dispute. She raised the right issue in the wrong meeting, with the wrong people.

“She has got a fiduciary responsibility in terms of the law to answer questions about her performance, collectively and individually, with her colleagues,” Hlengwa said.

In a statement on Monday, Eskom said it continued to implement Scopa’s recommendations to demonstrate the utility’s commitment to “operational effectiveness and fiscal prudence and to ensure that we can deliver on our mandate”.

Eskom described Friday’s meeting as “constructive and robust” but shied away from mentioning the heated interaction between Mavuso and Hlengwa.

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