Cut the bull, minister Brown – Brian Molefe resigned: MPs

Members of Parliament on the portfolio committee looking into the Brian Molefe saga have laid into public enterprises minister, Lynne Brown, telling her to “cut the nonsense” and stop trying to sell the narrative that the Eskom CEO did anything but resign.

The committee members – which includes the DA’s John Steenhuisen, the EFF’s Floyd Shivambu and the ANC’s Pravin Gordhan – all raised similar questions to Brown and Eskom chair, Ben Ngubane, around the reappointment of Molefe.

In affidavits submitted to court on Monday, Brown and Eskom both agreed that Molefe had not in fact resigned from his position as Eskom CEO, but had instead had taken unpaid leave.

In explaining this position to the committee, Brown said that she had initially understood that Molefe had resigned, but then learned in April 2017 that he had in fact applied for early retirement, prompting a R30 million payout.

The minister said the payout was not acceptable, and told the Eskom board to find another solution. The solution they came up with was to rescind Molefe’s retirement, and reinstate his contract as CEO. Brown said she agreed with this compromise, and agreed with the Eskom board to label Molefe’s absence as “unpaid leave”.

However, the committee members would have none of it.

The EFF’s Shivambu called the explanation “utter nonsense”, saying that it went far beyond reasonable doubt that a minister who has oversight of state companies like Eskom would think Molefe did anything but resign.

He said that no one should try to mislead Parliament on the matter, as it is a criminal offence.

The DA’s Steenhuisen doubled down, saying that no matter which way the bat swings, Molefe proved himself as an unfit person to hold the position of CEO.

“Let’s cut out the nonsense – Molefe wasn’t on maternity leave, he wasn’t on long leave. He resigned,” Steenhuisen said.

According to the MP, even if Molefe did not submit any formal documents or statements saying he resigned – which he did – the minute he took the oath of office as a member of Parliament, he tacitly resigned, as it would be counter to the Constitution, otherwise.

Molefe was sworn in as a Member of Parliament representing the ANC of the North West Province, in February following his ‘resignation’ as CEO at the power utility.

That leaves two scenarios, Steenhuisen said – either Molefe committed perjury in taking the oath, knowing that he was still employed by Eskom, or he resigned for the reasons he said (in the interest of good governance and in the public interest), and the Eskom board is now acting against both.

Former finance minister Pravin Gordhan joined the committee late, and entered with his own questions.

He said that the South African public is ‘connecting the dots’, and is becoming increasingly aware of the abuse of state companies for the benefit of the few. He said that officials – in the companies and their boards – have taken a position that they simply don’t care, because they are protected.

“That’s the reality, let’s not play around on technical questions,” Gordhan said. “But protected by whom? That is the question.”

Gordhan said that context matters, and that the Molefe matter was not an isolated incident – it was part of a much wider event, and followed a long line of occurrences.

He said that Eskom was critical to South Africa, and could not be abused at the whims of a few people.

Some of the recommendations made by the committee include an official inquiry into Eskom, in the same line as the SABC, and the presentation of all documents, minutes and contracts around Molefe’s resignation and reappointment.

The committee also wanted to know who ordered Molefe to return, what the Eskom board members’ personal relationships with the Gupta family was, and whether president Jacob Zuma was involved at any level of consultations.

“We just want transparency,” Gordhan said.

Read: Brown withdraws opposition to court battle against Molefe

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Cut the bull, minister Brown – Brian Molefe resigned: MPs