South Africa

Eskom board hits ground running, issuing stern ultimatum to staff

By Orateng Lepodise 2 February 2018

Eskom Chairman Jabu Mabuza is sending a stern warning to Eskom employees to come clean or be shown the door. By ORATENG LEPODISE.

We cannot have Eskom people supplying to Eskom. Either you choose to be an employee or a supplier. For all those doing this, we are giving you 10 days to come clean or face termination,” said Eskom’s newly appointed chair Jabu Mabuza.

He was speaking on Thursday during a visit by Parliament’s Public Enterprises Committee to the Eskom headquarters in Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. They met the newly appointed Eskom board and Acting Group Executive Officer, Phakamani Hadebe, in an attempt to establish a working relationship in a bid to ensure the viability of the company.

The committee praised the board on the work done since their appointment on 22 January.

Within a week, the board has worked hard at tackling the rotten potatoes in senior positions in Eskom. Since their appointment, there have been three resignations, three terminated contracts and two suspensions.

One of the people who has faced the wrath of the board is Sean Maritz, the former acting chief executive officer of Eskom. Maritz was placed on permanent suspension on Wednesday. Maritz was temporarily suspended from the power utility last Friday.

Mr Sean Maritz has been suspended pending an investigation into allegation of impropriety,” said Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom’s spokesperson. Maritz was suspended following of a letter he had written to McKinsey on 16 January 2018. In the letter Maritz told the global consultancy that the contract they got from Eskom, which was worth 1.6-billion for a turnaround strategy, was lawful, but that McKinsey still needed to pay the money back to Eskom.

This was despite the fact that Eskom had admitted that the contract was unlawful and that Eskom executives at that time had ignored all legal advice from lawyers about the deal.

The board has resolved that no wrongdoing was found, that the payment was valid,” said Maritz in the letter.

Eskom has been embroiled in controversy over its relationship with McKinsey and Gupta-linked Trillian. Eskom told McKinsey to use Trillian as a partner to secure the turnaround contract which was classified under a black empowerment programme.

Trillian was majority-owned by Salim Essa, a business partner of the Guptas and Duduzane Zuma. McKinsey and Trillian were major players in the State Capture revelations that have threatened the country’s stability.

Maritz appeared in front of the Eskom board on Tuesday to give them reasons why he had written that letter, but the board was not convinced by his explanation. According to Phasiwe, Maritz said he wrote the letter on behalf of the old Eskom board, and, feeling that Maritz’s explanation was weak, they put him on permanent suspension.

At the on-site visit on Thursday, Floyd Shivambu, EFF member of the Portfolio Committee, advised the board to refrain from meeting politicians on the side, especially when dealing with Eskom issues.

Shivambu applauded Eskom’s new chairman on the good work he has been doing for Telkom.

We had a Mafia operation at Eskom,” said Natasha Mazzone, Democratic Alliance MP.

According to Mazzone the new board should not have given Anoj Singh the option of either being fired or resign; he should have just been fired.

Anoj Singh deserved a harsher punishment,” said Mazzone. Singh was accused of irregularly awarding companies linked with the Guptas contracts and allegedly accepting gifts from the controversial family. Singh resigned a day before he was supposed to testify at the Eskom inquiry.

Days after Singh’s resignation, Koko Matshela, who was Eskom’s head of generation, refused to resign after the new board gave him an ultimatum to leave within four hours or face dismissal. His failure to resign resulted in him being temporarily suspended from the company.

He has taken the matter to the Labour Court in a case that will be heard on 6 February 2018.

Matshela initially faced six charges including that of allegedly failing to declare a conflict of interest around his daughter’s business dealings. Matshela is facing an additional four charges for allegedly misleading Parliament.

Matshela was placed on permanent suspension on Wednesday.

We believe that the charges are of a serious nature where we can win the case,” said Mabuza.

The shifts in staffing that have taken place under the new board include:

  • Abraham Masango, who was suspended around issues involving Trillian. An investigation will be carried out.
  • Edwin Mabelane, the senior general manager. Mabelane was terminated from Eskom (the board did not give reasons for his termination).
  • Group Capital Executive Prish Govender, who resigned.
  • Charles Kalima also resigned. Kalima was the Acting Commercial General Manager.
  • Zethembe Khoza, who was the board’s acting chairman, also resigned and is taking his matter to the CCMA.

Suzanne Daniels, the head of legal and compliance, is also on the suspension list. However, Daniels was already suspended before the new board was appointed. She took her suspension matter to the CCMA.

Exposing allegations of corrupt relationships, Daniels testified before a parliamentary committee probing the capture of Eskom. She revealed details of two meetings she had with the Gupta lieutenants.

Zukiswa Rantho, deputy chairperson of the committee to the new Eskom board, said, “Please let South Africans stay happy with your work. There are diligent workers in Eskom.”

Lungi Mnganga-Gcabashe, chair of the portfolio committee, said, “We came to visit Eskom to touch base with the new board and get an overview of what they have been doing and get clarity of what we have been seeing on media about top officials.”

Mnganga-Gcabashe sent a strong appeal for the new board to deal with criminals.

The new board hasn’t been able to settle in. They had to hit the ground running ‘cause of the issues they have been faced with,” Mnganga-Gcabashe said. DM

Photo: Eskom Chairman Jabu Mabuza (GCIS photo)



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