A NOSE FOR ANALOGY
Mantashe on exec exodus from Eskom, Transnet – ‘like mice running from methane in a mine’
Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe offered this line to describe the alleged friction between Eskom executives and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
In a media briefing on the sidelines of the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Tuesday, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe – with a wink and a nod – said something is very wrong in the Department of Public Enterprises, but he was hesitant to say exactly what.
He shared his concerns after being asked for his take on the news that Mpho Makwana, now the outgoing Eskom chairperson, resigned on Monday.
Daily Maverick reported that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan announced Makwana’s resignation on Monday. This publication understands that the relationship between Gordhan and Makwana had broken down over the selection process for a new CEO to replace André de Ruyter.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Eskom news
Makwana, who was at the conference on Tuesday, told this reporter that he had no more to add regarding his resignation and that “the statement released yesterday is the statement”.
Asked about the resignation and the alleged friction between Gordhan and executives at Eskom, Mantashe said: “Can I give you an analogy?”
“As a miner – that is my background – if you’re underground and you see mice running, you don’t go and look and see where, what is it that they see. You just follow them,” he said.
“Because when they run, half the time they’re smelling methane and then if you want to save yourself, just follow them. So then, when there is an exodus of executives in institutions, there should be a kind of methane that we should investigate. That is what we should understand.
“A number of executives [are] just running like mice, running from methane in a very short space of time. Chairperson of Eskom, three black executives in Transnet and all those things. What is the methane that they’re running away from? I will not know that, I’m not in that space.”
Daily Maverick has reported that Transnet CEO Portia Derby resigned at the end of September after three years at the helm of the state-owned transport company. The company’s CFO, Nonkululeko Dlamini, also resigned.
Read more in Daily Maverick: After the Bell: How a loss of confidence in Transnet CEO Portia Derby saw her run out of track
In recent months, Derby had come under intense criticism from the mining industry for failing to fix Transnet’s rail network and ports. Minerals Council South Africa, which represents 80% of the mining industry, has been vocal in calling for Derby and Transnet Freight Rail CEO Sizakele Mzimela to be replaced.
The Transnet board was due to issue a report on the performance of the two executives after Gordhan directed them to assess their suitability for the posts. In addition to the most recent loss of Makwana, Derby’s resignation left two vacancies at critical SOEs – Transnet and Eskom – which Gordhan is tasked with filling, and has yet to do so.
Asked for more details about the source of this “methane”, Mantashe said that “in DMRE we are accused of giving space to people who were fired somewhere else to contribute. There is no methane there. It is in other portfolios that there is this methane.” DM