Eskom urged to appoint new boss

SOUTH AFRICA - South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Friday said the newly appointed board of Eskom should prioritise the appointment of a permanent chief executive and finalise disciplinary action against a number of its executives.

The search for a new chief executive comes as former Eskom boss Brian Molefe is fighting to get his job back.

The DA and trade union Solidarity want the Northern Gauteng High Court to declare Eskom's decision earlier this year to reappoint Molefe, null and void. But Molefe has argued for his reinstatement.

Judgment was reserved last month. Public Enterprises spokesperson Colin Cruywagen yesterday said Brown was cognisant of the pending judgment. “After the court ruling, the board will be seized to deal with matter. But regardless of the outcome, the board still has to deal with the matter.”

Brown on Friday announced the board after obtaining the cabinet’s approval last week. She kept the current board intact, but added two new members: Health Ombudsman and public health advocate Professor MalegapuruMakgoba and academic, Professor TshepoMongalo.

Makgoba compiled the report into circumstances surrounding the death of 143 state psychiatric patients.

The board’s other members are interim chairperson Zethembe Khoza, Pat Naidoo, Giovanni Leonardi, Pulane Molokwane, Simphiwe Dingaan, Banothile Makhubela and Sathiasee lan Gounden.

The Department of Public Enterprises said Makgoba was a transformation and ethics authority and well versed in government policy, corporate governance and human resources. On the other hand, the department said Mongalo’s corporate financial law, business strategy, ethics and corporate governance skills would be invaluable to Eskom’s board.

Brown said she expected the board to take decisive action in addressing the challenges of leadership, governance and ethics. Eskom had been rocked by a number of scandals, which pointed to weak leadership and governance.

Parliament’s public enterprises committee has been holding hearings into governance failures and mismanagement of funds at Eskom. At these hearings, Brown, her deputy Ben Martins and Khoza have been heavily implicated.

She said the board had addressed the investigations and the suspensions of executive committee members should be prioritised and finalised expeditiously.

“These issues must be addressed to improve the Eskom brand, investor confidence and performance of the company at all levels.”

Among the suspended executives are executive for generation Matshela Koko, chief financial officer Anoj Singh, head of legal and compliance Suzanne Daniels and executive in the office of the chief executive Abram Masango.

The controversy surrounding Eskom had discouraged an unnamed candidate Brown had earmarked for a place on the board.

She said the candidate, who has business strategy expertise and was approved by the cabinet, declined his nomination, citing the highly-charged environment in which Eskom was operating.

She said the candidate’s refusal to serve on the board reflected the difficulty she faced in putting together a strong board. Brown said she would fill four vacancies on the board with “appropriate skills from the business sector”.

She said Khoza would chair the board until next year’s annual general meeting.

Speaking at last week’s energy indaba in Midrand, Energy Minister David Mahlobo on Friday weighed in on the governance and financial problems facing Eskom. “Eskom is not going to disappear. It has to be fixed. Fixing Eskom is in the interests of the country."

Business Leadership SA yesterday described the appointment of two additional board members as unsatisfactory.

“This is because the current board presided over Eskom at the time when the alleged capture of the entity was at its height, and highlights a lack of appreciation of the need to overhaul the governance structures at Eskom and other state-owned enterprises,” said spokesperson Themba Maseko. –IOL