Media blamed for Eskom announcement

2011-06-14 12:18

Johannesburg - The Public Enterprises Ministry has blamed the media for the government's failure to consult leaders of state-owned enterprises before dismissing them, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

In a letter to Business Day, public enterprises spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi blamed the publication for leaking a cabinet decision to dismiss the chairpersons of Transnet, Eskom and Denel, and therefore forcing Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba to make the announcement prematurely.

"The truth is that Mr Gigaba's programme for the announcement of the affected board changes was thrown off course by the publication by Business Day of the leaked cabinet decision on Thursday," Nkosi wrote.

"Prior to the leak, the ministry's plan was for it to first and foremost obtain the cabinet's ratification of the envisaged board changes."

Once this was obtained, Gigaba would have started "a process of engaging with the affected non-executive directors in order to apprise them of the government's decision".

The minister also planned to meet other affected parties, including unions, to explain his decision to overhaul leadership at the major state utilities, Nkosi said.

Cosatu and the National Union of Mineworkers last week called on Gigaba to suspend the appointments and consult the unions.

The government announced last Thursday that the entire Eskom board, barring two members, would be replaced and that Zola Tsotsi would succeed Mpho Makwana as Eskom chairperson from next month.

At Denel, the whole board  -apart from two members - was about to be replaced. Nhlanhla (Zoli) Kunene was appointed as Denel's new board chairperson for three years.

Transnet was expected to be next in line for changes at the top.

In another letter to Business Day on Tuesday, outgoing Denel chairperson Sibusiso Sibisi pointed out he had asked to step down from his post in 2008.

However, then minister Alec Erwin was approaching the end of his term and asked him to stay.

"Shortly thereafter, there was rapid ministerial succession (Erwin, Brigitte Mabandla, Barbara Hogan). I again expressed a desire to step down. On the very day of the 2010 annual general meeting (AGM), Ms Hogan indicated that the succession process had hit a snag and appealed (to me) that I stay on for a further year until the 2011 AGM," Sibisi wrote.

"Clearly the fatal lapse of judgement was to agree to Ms Hogan's request."

He said he had learnt from the media he was part of a "far-reaching ministerial purge".

Sibisi said he had not been contacted by public enterprises, but had seen a media release referring to the need for Denel's "immediate business turnaround and strategic redirection".

However, he pointed out: "Given that Denel's turnaround strategy of 2005, whose main pillar was international equity partnerships to enter global markets, is effectively on hold with no coherent alternative save the suggestion for Denel to 'include civilian products in its product offering', the apparent tough talk amounts to little more than weasel words."

Sibisi said the shareholder - public enterprises - needed to decide on Denel's primary objective, which was unclear at the moment.

"In the meantime, it is disingenuous to blame losses on the board."

Sibisi, who is also CEO of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, said this institution was an example of a well-run state-owned entity.

"In that capacity as my day job, it has been nothing short of pleasurable to report to three supportive ministers of science and technology. No lack of shareholder vision here. Maybe our leadership should talk a great deal more."