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The bold and the tearful: I will resign, says Brian Molefe

Nov 04 2016 07:29
Adiel Ismail

Cape Town - The usually cheerful Eskom boss Brian Molefe may have teared up in the full glare of the media, but he has boldly stated that he is prepared to step down from his post that earns him almost R800 000 per month.

This came amid growing calls for President Jacob Zuma to step down and for the Eskom board to be dissolved following former public protector Thuli Mandonsela's scathing report on state capture, in which Molefe was mentioned 70 times and emerged as a central figure.

Stay with Fin24 for Eskom's briefing starting at 10:30 on Friday in response to Madonsela's report.

Molefe is almost always jovial, cracking the occasional joke during media briefings. However, on Thursday at Eskom's interim results presentation he was briefly overwhelmed with emotion.

His emotions showed as he explained how it pained him that Madonsela unfairly painted him as corrupt without affording him the opportunity to formally respond to her. "I do not think the basis of what she says about Eskom and myself are correct," he said.

However, Madonsela told Business Day on Thursday that Molefe "was not being truthful when he said that he did not get a chance to give his side of the story on the state capture report".

She said a meeting was postponed, "but not by me as I was also sitting in my office waiting for Eskom".

"She said that the right to be heard did not have to involve a face-to-face meeting, and Molefe had been given an opportunity to answer questions," the paper revealed. "Eskom had also provided several boxes of documents."

READ: Madonsela nails Eskom over Gupta coal tender

Madonsela indicated in her 355-page report that Eskom's dealings with Tegeta Exploration and Resources may be corrupt, illegal and amount to fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

This relates to the sale of Optimum Coal Holdings to Tegeta and contracts with Tegeta, which is partly owned by the wealthy Gupta family through Oakbay Investments, including President Jacob Zuma’s son Duduzane Zuma and businessman Salim Essa.

Eskom has repeatedly denied giving Tegeta favourable treatment; however, it has come under scrutiny by the public protector and National Treasury.

Molefe, who turns 50 at the end of this month, said he is willing to take responsibility over a coal tender worth almost R1bn to Tegeta.

"I would like to take responsibility for that decision. It was not a decision made by Eskom employees. It was a decision that was made with my executive committee, but I am the leader of the executive committee. I am the chief executive of Eskom. I take responsibility for that even though it threw us into an unfortunate set of circumstances."


A series of images of Eskom CEO Brian Molefe crying over the State of Capture report. (Photos: Gareth van Zyl)

Molefe protects board

Molefe also responded to calls for Eskom's board to be disbanded. "I do not agree that the board should resign over this matter. I will take responsibility as the CE," said Molefe. 

Madonsela said it appeared the board was improperly appointed and not in line with the spirit of the King III report on good corporate governance.

She added that the board appears to have advanced the interests of Tegeta, and appeared to have failed to always act in the best interest of country.

READ: Eskom board should be dissolved - economist

Economist Iraj Abedian suggested to Fin24 on Wednesday that the Eskom board should be dissolved, and that each member should be subjected to the failure of fiduciary responsibilities. He also said Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown should be taken to task by Parliament in line with the provisions of the Executive Members Ethics Act over her failure to exercise her role as the shareholder representative.    

"I do not think my minister should resign over that [Tegeta's coal contract] decision," said Molefe. "I also don't think the president should resign.

"The president did not even know anything about it as far as I'm concerned and calls for his resignation, I think, are out of line," he said. "I will resign before he does."

Minutes later, a disorientated Molefe huddled backstage to compose himself. This prompted Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane, who was visibly angry, to take to the podium where he said: "If we lose Brian‚ she [Madonsela] should take the responsibility."

Upon returning to his seat, Molefe continued wiping tears from his face with a white handkerchief.

Resigning would be 'an honourable act'

"It is honourable that Molefe is taking responsibility for his executive committee's decision," Abedian told Fin24 on Thursday, but he pointed out the board's failure is not only about the coal deal with Tegeta.

"The Eskom board is inappropriately constituted and that is not Molefe's fault," said Abedian.

He said Brown and Ngubane should take the rap for this problem.

Molefe was seconded to Eskom from Transnet in April last year as acting CE and appointed to the post in a permanent capacity in September 25 2015.

The political activist, who served on boards of some of South Africa’s largest corporates, including the Industrial Development Corporation, Airports Company South Africa, Telkom, Investec, Lion of Africa Fund Managers and Public Investment Corporation, has been an ardent defender of the controversial Gupta family.

Molefe, who is widely speculated to be a strong contender for the position of finance minister should Pravin Gordhan be ousted, also served as a deputy director general at the National Treasury.

ICYMI | get all the news and emotion right here:

Tearful Molefe slams public protector’s Saxonwold cellphone evidence

Molefe: SA needs nuclear to avoid possible load shedding

Eskom revenue jumps 10.5% to R97.1bn

Eskom chair hits out at public protector report

Eskom misleading SA on power costs, nuclear not needed - Eberhard

Updated energy plans to be open for public comment - cabinet

INFOGRAPHIC: Cloud over Eskom #StateCaptureReport

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