Molefe ‘retired’ to protect new wife from media frenzy – Eskom chair | Fin24
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Molefe ‘retired’ to protect new wife from media frenzy – Eskom chair

May 16 2017 13:51
Matthew le Cordeur

Cape Town – Eskom CEO Brian Molefe asked chairperson Ben Ngubane if he could exercise his early retirement option to shield the woman he was about to marry from the media frenzy following the public protector’s State of Capture report in November 2016.

Ngubane shared this insight into Molefe’s thinking with media on the sidelines of the African Utility Week, after the Eskom CEO cancelled his opening address speech one day after resuming his role.

The Eskom chair said Molefe “was absolutely devastated” by the State of Capture report in November 2016. “He came to me and said he thinks he needs to exercise his early retirement option," he said.

Ngubane said he tried to persuade Molefe that over the long term this will be disastrous for him. “He even told me that he was getting married soon and he couldn't have his wife waking up every day to these funny things in the press,” said Ngubane. “I told him that the board accepts that you want to exercise your early retirement option."

Ngubane said it then became an administrative issue of the Eskom Pension Board. “We were not even aware of the quantum (R30m pension payout) that was involved.”

Molefe shed tears during a media conference last year when Eskom first addressed the public protector report, which implicated him with the sale of Optimum coal mine from Glencore to Gupta-owned Tegeta. Soon afterwards, he announced he was stepping down as CEO to clear his name.

READ: Ramatlhodi: I told the Guptas to back off

However, in 2017 the Eskom board was ordered to rescind his R30m pension payout after Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown discovered the payout amount in the media. The board’s solution was to bring Molefe back - and he returned to his role on Monday.

While Molefe had flown to Cape Town for the conference on Tuesday, he took a sharp turn in Plein Street in the morning and drove to Parliament instead, where he was apparently required, Ngubane explained. Molefe officially left his post as MP on Sunday.

Molefe has come under fire - and legal action - for returning to Eskom on Monday, with critics saying he was going back on his word that he would clear his name.

READ: Ramatlhodi spills beans on how Molefe 'helped' Guptas

That heat rose exponentially on Tuesday morning, when former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi was quoted by amaBhungane as saying he was pressurised by Molefe and Ngubane in 2015 to help the Guptas take over Glencore’s coal mine.

Ngubane said the allegation is preposterous.

“We can't instruct a minister what to do. We take our problems to the ministers (Energy, Department of Public Enterprises, Treasury and Department of Mineral Resources) and we ask for help,” he said. “For a minister to claim that we actually made him take a decision on something is preposterous."

WATCH: Ngubane says Ramatlhodi claims are preposterous

Ngubane explains R30m pension payout for Molefe

Ngubane said Molefe had not held a gun over the board’s head regarding the pension payout or getting his old job back.

"When Molefe came in 2015, there was a problem because we came with an understanding that he was going to be permanent.

“After we had signed those contracts it came about (through Cabinet) that it can't be permanent; it must be five years.

“The losses that he would suffer because of that change came to the fore and our people in governance sat with him, recommended to the board (this is way back - 2015) that we buy 10 years' pension for him to compensate for the gap that we created in his pension when he retired in five years’ time."

WATCH: Ngubane on Tegeta and Guptas

Ngubane tells the story behind the Tegeta coal deal

Ngubane spoke out on Molefe’s links to the Guptas ahead of Tegeta’s purchase of Optimum.

“Do you realise that winter was coming and we still had load shedding? Then the quarrel with Optimum and Glencore surfaced, because Glencore wanted us to give an export price per tonne of coal, which then would have increased from R150 to more than R500 per tonne of coal. Then Brian said we can't do that.  

“He (Molefe) was looking for an alternative because Optimum said it won't provide a single ounce of coal to Hendrina Power Station. That would have meant that we would be losing 2000 MW immediately. And it was going to be winter.  

“He (Molefe) did a lot of negotiations with Tegeta, which was the nearest mine to the power station. I am surprised when people say, 'why was he speaking to Tegeta or Oakbay or whoever'. He had to. And then indeed we did not have load shedding.

"We had sufficient coal trucked in, brought in, and built up the stocks to more than a million tonnes of coal.”        

Ngubane said winter is coming once again and this time it is Treasury that is making matters tricky.

“Now we are having another problem, because Treasury has not signed our coal purchase agreements,” he said. "And now we are in winter and winter is getting bitter. The people are using electricity like crazy - 34 000 MW."        

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