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Eskom inquiries could keep out-of-job Ngubane busy

Jun 14 2017 23:33
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Outgoing Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane might find his new free time is cut short, if he truly intends being a “part of the team that will answer to everything”.

Ngubane, who resigned late on Monday, gave this assurance to PowerFM's Andile Khumalo on Wednesday, stating: “I’m not running away.”

He said his decision to quit was a personal one, adding that "there are opportunities in the business world that I am keen to grab that I can’t do while being chairperson of Eskom”.

#GuptaLeaks: How Eskom was captured

While Ngubane said his term was due to end soon, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has hinted at an overhaul of the Eskom board at its annual general meeting next Friday.

However, if Ngubane does intend putting focus into clearing the name of Eskom and his own, then he might find he won’t have much time for the business opportunities that he is so keen to “grab”.

TIMELINE: Who is Ben Ngubane?

That’s because there are three inquiries (one stalled by President Jacob Zuma) that his team would require help with:

1. SIU probe

There’s the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) inquiry into the power utility, which Brown recently instituted (Zuma still needs to give final approval).

This inquiry will look into Eskom coal contracts, which will include ones signed with Gupta-owned Tegeta Resources and Energy. Ngubane has defended these countless times in Parliament.

2. State of Capture judicial commission of inquiry

Another pending probe is the judicial commission of inquiry that former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela recommended in her State of Capture report in November 2016.

A judge – not selected by President Jacob Zuma – would be given scope to investigate allegations that Eskom helped the Guptas buy Optimum coal mine.

If Zuma fails at his legal bid in October to overrule this recommendation, then Ngubane may be called to assist here too.

3. Parliamentary inquiry

In addition, Democratic Alliance public enterprises spokesperson Natasha Mazzone said she will use an additional Parliamentary inquiry into Eskom starting on 21 June "to hold Ngubane to account”.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises recently announced that the Eskom board and the minister will be subjected to an inquiry to check if the board exercised its fiduciary responsibilities and duties, regarding the fiasco regarding Brian Molefe’s short-live reappointment.

“A Parliamentary inquiry needs to be instituted against the board and forensic investigation needs to be conducted to reach a determination of what must happen,” it said.

FULL INTERVIEW: PowerFM's Andile Khumalo

ANALYSIS: Eskom’s revolving door, endless scandals cloud SA’s energy future

Ngubane lashes out at gossip

Ngubane expressed his anger with recent reports. "People must not gossip, they must do thorough investigations of institutions before they condemn.

“Eskom is being condemned left, right and centre,” he said. “The board members’ names have been tarnished, people have so much animosity towards us and we accept that.

“That is the risk you take when you work for a public institution.”

Ngubane’s personal business lands him in court

Regarding legal proceedings where Ngubane has been implicated in falsifying documents in a liquidation case, he said: “There is nothing fraudulent about it, not on my side, but that will be revealed in court.”

The matter relates to Huntrex 305, the private company that Ngubane and his wife are sole directors and shareholders in.

Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) on Tuesday said they would file criminal charges against Ngubane related to the matter.

In addition, Ngubane has been named twice so far in the GuptaLeaks saga. Once due to a failed bid to secure a lucrative oil concession in the Central African Republic (CAR) as well as in the revelations about the capture of Eskom.

READ: 5 blemishes from Ngubane's checkered past

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