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Ngubane: I was a good, honest chairperson – AS IT HAPPENED

2018-03-07 09:23

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane told the Eskom inquiry that he believes he was a good, honest chairperson.

Former Eskom chair Ben Ngubane. (Pic: Gallo Images
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Last Updated at 05:29
07 Mar 15:18

Ngubane: I was a good, honest chairperson 

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane told the Eskom inquiry that he believes he was a good, honest chairperson.He presented evidence before the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday, where he spoke on a number of issues during his tenure at Eskom.

This includes Former CEO Brian Molefe’s resignation, the prepayment contract with Tegeta, the suspension of former Eskom executive Matshela Koko and his relationship with the Gupta family and their business associates.

Ngubane was appointed board chair in 2015 and resigned in 2017, following the fallout of Molefe’s resignation. When asked to weigh in on his role as, he said: “I was a good honest chairperson who did his best.”

Ngubane was also probed on his view of Molefe as CEO. Ngubane said that it was disastrous for Eskom and the country when Molefe left. “When we came in, the problems were already there and they were big,” he said.

Eskom was on the precipice of disaster. “Here comes Molefe. The funders, people who buy Eskom bonds go back to buying Eskom bonds,” he said.

Ngubane added by the time he left the power utility, its finances were “shooting up” because of the buy-in by bondholders.

“Molefe leaving was a disaster for Eskom and the country,” he said.

Ngubane also gave details on the situation relating to Molefe’s pension payout. He told the committee he did not believe that Molefe would not recuse himself from a committee meeting where his remuneration as discussed.

He also denied that there was a collapse of corporate governance at the power utility.

He was asked by evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara why he had not checked with Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown for her approval of the pension payout. Ngubane said that he thought she was aware of what was happening with regard to Molefe’s payout given the acknowledgement of receipt of letters sent relating to the package.

He also said that the Eskom board acted on the advice they were given regarding the matter. If the advice was “contrary” then they would have handled the matter differently.

He was also interrogated on the special leave Koko was granted, when the board made a u-turn on a decision to suspend him in March 2017.

Koko was implicated in a whistleblower report and the board wanted to suspend him on the “collectiveness of the issues raised”. Eskom gave Koko 48 hours to respond, and then referred the matter to the audit and risk committee.

“To suspend directly on a whistleblower note without going through process would be illegal,” he said. “He would have taken us to the CCMA and Labour court and won if we took steps not in law or policy.”

Ngubane said that he did not solely make the decision not to suspend Koko, it was a matter that the board and the people and governance committee had engaged on.

“I did not just say ‘no suspension anymore’. It was a product of our consultations.”

Ngubane also disputed suspended Eskom executive Abram Masango’s testimony that Brown halted the suspension. “The minister called me often, particularly after work at Parliament,” he said.

There were issues such as stability of Eskom, which Brown was concerned with. “She phoned me, but it was not about Koko. It was about Eskom business. It was about a whole lot of processes that dealt with Eskom stability.”

Ngubane explained that the allegation presented in the whistleblower report was defamatory and unsubstantiated. Before suspending Koko, it was decided to place him on special leave while he was to be investigated.

Ngubane also admitted that he had met with the Guptas during his tenure at Eskom. He was responding to a question from EFF MP and member of the portfolio committee on public enterprises Marshall Dlamini. Ngubane said that he had met most of the Gupta family and that he engaged with them at social events, such as weddings. He had also met with them at their home for “special occasions”.

When asked on his views on the Gupta leaked emails and the state capture inquiry, Ngubane said he would await the commission of inquiry to happen to know all the facts about the Gupta leaks.

He also had a business relationship with Salim Essa, a business associate of the Guptas. “I came to know Essa around 2013. It was about oil business in West Africa. It is a long story,” he said.

Essa was interested in being part of Ngubane’s business Gade Oil and Gas.The project was cancelled because of the violence in the Central African Republic.

The inquiry resumes next week Tuesday.     


07 Mar 15:06

Eskom inquiry goes South on "rubbish" comments

The Eskom inquiry was temporarily diverted when former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane called the comments from committee member and ANC MP Zukile Luyenge “rubbish”.

Luyenge was questioning Ngubane on his stance about those implicated in state capture.

Ngubane acknowledged that although former Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela observed issues of state capture which require further investigation by a judicial commission, he could not condemn people without evidence.

Luyenge probed him further on his views of former Eskom CFO Anoj Singh, and said it was not enough for Ngubane to say that it was up to the courts to prove he is a crook. Ngubane responded abruptly: “I am not sitting here to take this rubbish.”

Chair Zukiswa Rantho stepped in to reprimand Ngubane for his language. She also said this is not the first time Ngubane has dismissed the qork of the committee as being nonsensical.

“We cannot accept you insulting us as members of Parliament.” Rantho said that Singh had lied to the committee. “You cannot come here and say we are talking rubbish. It is not acceptable. We are a committee of Parliament and we must get to the bottom of the truth happening at Eskom.”

EFF MP Marshall Dlamini weighed in and said that Ngubane should not treat the committee as his friends or children and that he should withdraw the comment.

Ngubane withdrew the comment, but added that the parliamentarians have equal responsibility to respect the citizens of the country.

Before resuming his line of questioning, Luyenge said that he did not need Ngubane’s billions. “I have my R200s, it is enough for my integrity.”


07 Mar 13:48

Ngubane has met with most of the Guptas - inquiry hears

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane said that he had met with the Guptas during his tenure at Eskom.

He was responding to a question from EFF MP and member of the portfolio committee on public enterprises Marshall Dlamini.

Ngubane said that he had met most of the Gupta family. Ngubane said that he mainly engaged with them at social events, such as weddings or the South African of the Year awards.

Dlamini probed Ngubane on whether he had met with them at their homes during his tenure at Eskom. To this Ngubane said yes.

“I was invited for special occasions and I went," he said.

When asked on his views on the Gupta leaked emails and the state capture inquiry, Ngubane said he would await the commission of inquiry to happen to know all the facts about the Gupta leaks.


07 Mar 13:30

Molefe's exit disastrous for Eskom, SA - Ngubane

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane says that Brian Molefe’s departure from Eskom was disastrous not only for the power utility, but for the country.

He was responding to criticisms of the power utility presented by DA MP Natasha Mazzone and member of the portfolio committee on public enterprises.

In response Ngubane spoke on the role Molefe played in turning the situation around. “When we came in, the problems were already there and they were big,” he said. Eskom was on the precipice of disaster.

“Here comes Molefe. The funders, people who buy Eskom bonds go back to buying Eskom bonds,” he said. Ngubane added by the time he left the power utility, its finances were “shooting up” because of the buy-in by bondholders.

“Molefe leaving was a disaster for Eskom and the country.” Ngubane said that when people in acting positions came in, there was a lot of instability.

“I knew if you remove good leadership you are calling for trouble. I made an emotional statement saying it (Molefe’s exit) is a blow for Eskom and the country.”

Mazzone then slammed Ngubane’s leadership and said that under his watch the Land Bank, among other things, collapsed. He responded by listing other examples of his role in turning things for the better, such as his time as chair of the SABC. He also said that Nersa had brought down the electricity tariffs during his tenure. 


07 Mar 13:02

Ngubane had a business relationship with Salim Essa - inquiry hears

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane said that he had a business relationship with Gupta-business associate Salim Essa.

“I came to know Essa around 2013. It was about oil business in West Africa. It is a long story,” he told members of the portfolio committee on public enterprises.

Ngubane said he was at restaurant JB’s with people involved in mining. “Salim came to me and introduced himself. And I introduced him to the people I was with, he knew we were talking about oil business.”

Essa informed Ngubane that he had his own oil business, and wanted to be part of Ngubane’s Gade Oil and Gas. “It was a business relationship.”

The project was cancelled because of the violence in the Central African Republic.


07 Mar 12:38

No collapse of corporate governance at Eskom - Ngubane

Former Eskom Board chair Ben Ngubane denied that Brian Molefe attended a committee meeting where his remuneration and pension package was discussed.

During questioning by evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, Ngubane relayed details on Molefe’s appointment, salary and early retirement.

Ngubane said that Molefe’s salary was no different to basic packages of previous CEOs at Eskom. He also said that the disparity in pay levels between the top executives of a company and workers is a fact of the system society operated.

“I do not set levels of payment at Eskom or any state-owned enterprise. The chairman of a board does not set payment levels. We get that from the system.”

Vanara in turn referred to the court ruling which ordered Molefe to pay back his early retirement millions.

In the ruling three judges said that Eskom’s decision to grant Molefe R30.1m after 115 months of service was unlawful and not in compliance with the rules of the pension fund.

The judgement said that it reflected greed of people in leadership positions abusing public finds. Ngubane said that there is a lot of greed, but it is the nature of the state of the system. He added that this indictment would apply to the likes of Steinhoff and other multinationals.

Vanara further questioned Ngubane on Molefe’s presence at a committee meeting where his remuneration was discussed. Molefe could have been in the general meeting but when discussing prescribed remuneration, it is standard procedure for those in question to recuse themselves, said Ngubane.

Vanara said that in institutions where corporate governance is supreme that would happen, but not in one where corporate governance has collapsed. Ngubane would not admit that there was a collapse of corporate governance at Eskom.

Vanara pointed out that the court ruling showed Molefe had not recused himself. Ngubane denied this happened. “I would like to see the minutes of the meeting. I cannot believe that happened… I do not know where it comes from.” Vanara once again asked Ngubane if he ojected to what three judges said which suggested a collapse in corporate governance at Eskom.

To this Ngubane replied: “I am denying it.” Chair Zukiswa Rantho asked Ngubane to clarify if he was disputing what the judges said. In his reply Ngubane said that judges make decisions based on the information they have.

Vanara also asked Ngubane why he had not checked with the minister that Molefe’s pension payout was approved. Ngubane said that he received acknowledgement of that his letter was received by the DG.

Vanara asked if that amounted to ministerial approval. Ngubane said it did not amount to ministerial approval. “It amounts to the fact that the minister is aware of what we are doing.”


07 Mar 11:50

Brown didn't call Ngubane to stop Koko's suspension - inquiry hears

Eskom delayed suspending Matshela Koko in March 2017 to avoid litigation, the Eskom inquiry heard.

During questioning by evidence leader Advocate Ntuthuzelo Vanara, former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane spoke on why Eskom had not suspended Koko after he was implicated in a whistleblower report.

“To suspend directly on a whistleblower note without going through process would be illegal,” said Ngubane.

“He would have taken us to the CCMA and Labour court and won if we took steps not in law or policy.”

Ngubane also said that he did not solely make the decision not to suspend Koko, it was a matter that the board and the people and governance committee had engaged on.

“I did not just say ‘no suspension anymore’. It was a product of our consultations.” Koko was given 48 hours to make his case to avoid suspension. Thereafter the matter was referred to the audit and risk committee.

Ngubane could not call out specific reasons as to why the board was considering suspending Koko. He said that it was the “collectiveness of the issues” raised in the whistleblower report which were considered.

Ngubane also said that he did not get a phone call from former Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown to halt the decision.

“The minister called me often, particularly after work at Parliament,” he said. There were issues such as stability of Eskom, which Brown was concerned with.

“She phoned me, but it was not about Koko. It was about Eskom business. It was about a whole lot of processes that dealt with Eskom stability.”

Ngubane explained that the allegation presented in the whistleblower report was defamatory and unsubstantiated. Before suspending Koko, it was decided to place him on special leave while he was to be investigated.


07 Mar 11:22

Nothing unique about prepaid coal agreements - Ngubane

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane said that the pre-payment for coal is not “unique” and has been done in the past.

He spoke on the prepayment of over R659m to Gupta-linked company Tegeta.

Ngubane said that prepayment agreements form part of the procurement mandate approved by Eskom’s Board Tender Committee in 2008. “It is used in large projects, coal mining contracts and emergency supply contracts,” he said.

He referred to the public protector’s report on the matter which also noted that Eskom has the policies in place to allow for prepayments.

But in the same report the public protector said that if Eskom conducted due diligence of Optimum Coal Mine, Eskom would have seen that it would not make commercial sense to contract with Tegeta for a higher price of coal.

Ngubane pointed out a preliminary legal opinion indicated that the transaction was not in contravention of the PFMA.


07 Mar 11:06

Ngubane sheds light on Molefe's pension payout

Brian Molefe received millions on his early retirement from Eskom, Parliament heard.

Former board chair Ben Ngubane disclosed the circumstances of Brian Molefe’s appointment of group chief executive of Eskom as well as his pension package.

Molefe requested early retirement on November 11, 2016. Molefe’s early retirement was discussed at a special people and governance committee meeting on November 21.

On November 24, Ngubane approved the early retirement and confirmed all penalties would be waived for Molefe.

On March 23, 2017 the amounts paid to Molefe in respect of his salary up to December 2016 were R575 679.91, leave due to him came to over R226 200 and a short term bonus of over R2m. The total paid to Molefe was R2.9m.

On April 19, 2017 former Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown called a meeting to discuss the pension pay-out of R30m as it was not accepted.

Molefe had already received 30% of his pension benefit in January 2017. Molefe said he only received R7.7m from the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund and of this R4.3m was a transfer from the Transnet Pension Fund. 



07 Mar 10:21

Committee plans to hear from Gigaba, Guptas and Duduzane Zuma all on one day

In a race to wrap up their work on the Eskom inquiry, the portfolio committee on public enterprises plans to hear from Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba, the Gupta brothers and Duduzane Zuma all on one day.

Before kicking off the inquiry on Wednesday, where former board chair Ben Ngubane is expected to testify, chair Zukiswa Rantho settled a few administrative issues.

This includes the appearance of several others, including former SAA chair Dudu Myeni.

Committee members accepted Gigaba's request for an extension to appear before the committee. Gigaba has been granted 10 days to prepare, and will appear before the inquiry on Tuesday, March 13.

As for the Gupta brothers Atul and Ajay, committee members were concerned that Atul who is a fugitive may not appear. It is proposed that business associates Salim Essa and Eric Wood appear instead. 

The inquiry had eight months to do its work and a report of the findings was to be submitted to Parliament in March 2018.

Committee members agreed that the inquiry should wrap up by the end of the month. 


07 Mar 10:11

Gigaba given 10 days to prepare for Eskom Inquiry

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba has 10 days to prepare for his appearance before the Eskom inquiry.

Gigaba was scheduled to appear before the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Tuesday, but sent a letter to the chair Zukiswa Rantho on Friday March 2, requesting an extension.

The committee members accepted his request. Gigaba has been caught up in dealing with matters relating to the naturalization of the Gupta family.

The home affairs minister on Tuesday confirmed at a media briefing that Ajay Gupta and his brother Atul are not South African citizens, News24 reported.

Gigaba provided clarity on the process of their naturalization. Allegations were made that Gigaba helped fast-track the process for them in 2015.

Gigaba is expected to testify on his tenure as public enterprise minister between 2009 and 2014. He has been criticised for the regression of several state-owned enterprises under his watch.

He asked the oversight committee for more time to prepare for his appearance at the inquiry, and wants specifity on the matters he should account for, City Press reported.


07 Mar 09:59

Dudu Myeni can’t appear before Eskom Inquiry due to health

Former SAA board chair Dudu Myeni says she cannot physically appear before the Eskom inquiry due to health reasons.

This is according to Chair Zukiswa Rantho, who dealt with a few administrative issues before the inquiry kicked off on Wednesday.

Myeni had responded to the many letters sent by the committee requesting her appearance on Wednesday.

Myeni called Rantho on Tuesday explaining that she is not well, said Rantho. “Her doctor booked her off. She is really apologizing.”

Myeni said she was not undermining the committee, but she had sent written submissions.

Rantho said the written submissions would not be acceptable, Myeni has to appear before the inqiry to be questioned by the committee.

Myeni however cannot fly down and would have to drive down from Johannesburg to Cape Town.

Rantho said that she is still waiting for Myeni to send through the doctor’s certificate.

Committee members raised concerns that this may be an inevitable delay, when they have “work to do” and deadlines to meet.

Rantho suggested the committee go to Johannesburg to hear from Myeni. This was not accepted by DA MP Natasha Mazzone who pointed out the costs that would have to be incurred to fly up the whole committee.

ANC MP Rembuluwani Tseli also said that flying up to accommodate Myeni would set a precedent for other witnesses.

Myeni has 24 hours to provide a doctor’s note. The committee wants her to appear next Wednesday.

Myeni was to appear before the inquiry last week,as she was implicated in the testimony Eskom chair Zola Tsotsi. According to his testimony Tsotsi said he met with Myeni in March 2015, at her request, at the Durban presidential residence. According to Tsotsi, she discussed with him the suspension of Eskom’s then chief executive Tshediso Matona and executives Dan Marokane and Matshela Koko. Myeni denies this event in her written submission, ACDP MP Steven Swart said.


07 Mar 09:23

Ngubane appears before Eskom inquiry

Former Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane will appear before the Eskom inquiry on Wednesday, after being named and implicated in the testimonies of others.

Ngubane quit as Eskom chair in June 2017. The Eskom board at the time was shocked by the surprise decision. Ngubane was implicated in the Gupta leaks which included revelations of capture of state power utility Eskom.

Following his tenure as chair of the SABC between 2010 and 2013, Ngubane was appointed Eskom board chair in 2015.

Former Mineral Resources Minister came out with strong allegations in May 2017 that Ngubane and CEO Brian Molefe tried to pressurize him to help the Guptas by suspending the mining licences of Glencore mines.

Ngubane in turn called the allegations “barefaced lies”.

During his testimony before the inquiry in November 2017, Molefe shared his version of the event.

Molefe told the committee that he did not support moves to suspend Glencore’s licence. He also explained that Glencore, out of its own had sold Optimum Coal mine to Gupta-owned Oakbay.

Molefe also shared the circumstances surrounding his resignation, which Ngubane presided over.

The committee will hear Ngubane’s evidence at 09:30.


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