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Brian Molefe to return to head Eskom

Business Report
FORMER Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe will on Monday make a spectacular return to his old job.

This follows a decision by the power utility’s board to rescind his application for early retirement, because it could not agree with him “on a mutually beneficial pension proposal.”

Molefe has been an ANC Member of Parliament (MP) for barely three months. Sunday is likely to be his last day as an MP.

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Former Eskom boss Brian Molefe to lead the organisation again. Picture: Timothy Bernard

Eskom took the decision after Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown last month objected to Eskom’s payment of a R30million pension payout to Molefe.

Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane said yesterday that in accordance with the minister’s instructions, the parties attempted to find a mutually acceptable pension proposal, but were unable to reach such an arrangement.

“The board, therefore, rescinded Molefe’s early retirement application,” Ngubane said. He added that with Brown’s consent, the utility had reinstated Molefe’s contract of employment, which ends in September 2020. “The board was required to rescind its decision having regard to the Minister’s concerns,” he said.

Molefe announced in November last year that he would step down “in the interest of good corporate governance.”

This followed the release of the Public Protector’s report on state capture.

The report had raised questions about his proximity to members of the Gupta family whose company, Tegeta Exploration and Resources, is a supplier of coal to Eskom.

Eskom legal and compliance acting head Suzanne Daniels said when Molefe stepped down, he had made a formal application for early retirement “in terms of the rules.”

The Eskom Pension and Provident Fund had processed Molefe’s application for early retirement prior to Brown’s intervention. “Molefe had been classified as a retired person on the system. In terms of that, he received one third commutation,” Daniels said.

This, she said, amounted to about R7million, which Molefe was now required to pay back to Eskom by the end of November.

Daniels added that following Brown’s statement that she was declining the payout, Ngubane sought a meeting with the minister. When Eskom could not agree with Brown on the handling of the payout, it sought legal advice “so that we are not on the wrong side of the law”.

Daniels said the board yesterday formalised the decision to reject Molefe’s application.

She said Eskom had consulted Molefe and he could either accept the rescindment or resign. “The decision means his application for early retirement is null and void. He elected to come back,” Daniels said.

Ngubane, who has in the past gone on a limb to defend Molefe, waxed lyrical about the former Eskom boss, saying he was “absolutely delighted” to welcome him back at the entity.

“We are facing serious problems. None of our applications for coal purchases had been approved by the Treasury. We need that skill that saved us last time. When he came here, Eskom was on the brink of collapse. The previous chief executive had spoken about blackouts. There was a stage when they told the minister that Eskom might not be able to pay salaries.

“In terms of our fiduciary responsibility, we had no alternative other than to bring (Molefe) back to help us,” said Ngubane.

He said Brown was supportive of Eskom's decision.

Ngubane was dismissive of suggestions that Molefe had chosen to return because President Jacob Zuma had not appointed him in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

Ngubane said acting chief executive Matshela Koko would return to his previous position of group executive for generation.

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