Public enterprises minister Lynne Brown has revealed that she has withdrawn her opposition to parts of the DA’s court battle against the reinstatement of Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe.
Speaking in front of a Parliamentary portfolio committee set up to get answers around the debacle, Brown gave her account of events, explaining why she supported Molefe’s return to the state power utility.
The DA applied to court to have Molefe’s reappointment as CEO blocked, and for it to be declared irrational and invalid.
In her presentation, Brown said that she would withdraw her opposition to the bid.
Let me start by reporting that I have submitted my affidavit to court with regard to the Brian Molefe matter. I have instructed my legal team to withdraw my opposition to Part A of the relief sought – that I set aside my appointment of Mr Molefe.
I have nonetheless deposed an affidavit as I believe the information I have will assist the court in determining its decision.
My initial advice was to oppose Part A on the basis that I neither appointed nor reinstated Mr Molefe, as well as on the basis of advice from Eskom’s Board that it had obtained an opinion from a Senior Council advocate on its handling of the matter.
But having had the opportunity to properly appraise the issues I have decided that I will abide by the court’s decision on the legality of Mr Molefe’s return to Eskom.
When Eskom’s Board approached me to inform me of its decision to bring Mr Molefe back, I said I would support it on the proviso that it was legal. I also made this point repeatedly when addressing media on the matter, though – curiously – none of them thought it worthy of reporting…
With regard to Part B of the motion, which seeks to stop Mr Molefe from conducting any work at Eskom, I have reserved my rights.
Molefe announced that he would resign as CEO of Eskom in late 2016. However, the Eskom board now claims that Molefe never resigned, but instead took early retirement.
According to Brown, she never knew about this process, as she was never informed.
“I was under the impression that Molefe had resigned – I didn’t know he had applied for early retirement,” she said. The minister said she only learned about the early retirement in April 2017, when the issue of the R30 million payout came to light.
Brown said that she was presented with four options on how to go about things, one of which was having Molefe return as CEO. The minister said she supported this, as long as it was legal.
She acknowledged that the decision would not be widely lauded, particularly in light of Molefe’s implication in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report – but she stressed that the report is being taken on review, and that there are no charges against the CEO.
Eskom’s chairman, Ben Ngubane said that he was limited in what he could say, because his legal council told him that the matter can only be debated in court.
However, the DA said that the sub judice rule could not be used to block answers and accountability. The party presented a pile of evidence, including official statements, internal memos, job listings, WhatsApp conversations and interviews, which clearly showed that Molefe had resigned.