Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown expressed her frustration with the leadership at power utility Eskom.
On Thursday, Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi said the four executives, including chief executive Tshediso Matona, had been asked to step aside as the power utility embarked on a fact-finding inquiry.
The other three are finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital executive Dan Morokane, and commercial and technology executive Matshela Koko.
Non-executive board member Zethembe Khoza would become interim chief executive.
In an interview with the Sunday Times following the suspensions, Brown said: “I just can’t give credible information because I don’t have it. I have now spent 10 months listening to the public and the business sector raising their complaints and as the shareholder — representing more than 50 million South Africans — I am very frustrated.”
“We cannot continue to have a situation where electricity plants just go off line unplanned. I have been asking for a maintenance plan for such a long time now.”
Brown said that due to the Companies Act, she is unable to interfere with operational issues. However, the minister said: “It is my job, representing millions of South Africans, to ensure that their cries are heard. And I was worried that the Eskom corporate plan merely continues with business as usual, adding in things the entity wants to do in the next year, building on past reports, as if we are not facing a massive problem.”
Brown said that on Wednesday, she asked the board to go into committee for a briefing, however, they stressed that the minister was unable to interfere with their job.
“I spoke for about half an hour about the frustrations with the power stations not coming online, the maintenance issue, the true financial position of Eskom, the investigation into the accident at the Majuba power station and so forth, the minister told the Times.
Issues raised by the board included municipal debt, and a lack of reports from the ‘war room’ set up by president Jacob Zuma, to implement a turnaround strategy for Eskom. “I told them that Eskom managers have access to the war room and that they should be reporting the situation to the board,” Brown said.
“At about 11.30, I left and told them I would be around if they needed me for clarification on any issues. I went to a nearby shopping mall for coffee and lunch. After a very long meeting, which I did not attend any further, I was called after 9pm with the board’s decision to suspend the four officials, and I duly informed President Jacob Zuma,” The minister told the Times.