"I will abide by the decision of the court," Brown told Parliament's portfolio committee on public enterprises.
Molefe's return to the head of the power utility he left under a cloud of corruption allegations in November has met with widespread condemnation, including from Brown's colleagues in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
She told the committee she did not "expect that society would universally welcome Molefe's return" but had thought that the presumption of innocence and fact that he would be under intense scrutiny would mitigate concerns. The Democratic Alliance last week filed a two-fold application in the North Gauteng High Court, asking that Molefe be prevented from performing any functions at Eskom and that his reappointment be rescinded. Brown said in terms of the first part of the application, that he be stopped from working, she had reserved her rights.
Opposition MPs criticised Brown for not submitting her affidavit to the committee on Tuesday morning, not giving MPs all documents relating to Molefe's reappointment and the proposed R30 million pension payout she rejected earlier, preferring instead that he return to his old post. And they heaped more scorn on her for saying she had for months believed that Molefe resigned last year but learnt in April that he had in fact asked for early retirement. Brown said Molefe's initial contract with Eskom had been signed in terms of an earlier memorandum of incorporation which did not, unlike the later 2016 one, oblige the board to inform the minister of the terms of employment of the CEO.
MPs said the claim that he had applied for retirement was a lie, pointing out that he could not have been sworn in as an MP earlier this year if he had still been in Eskom's employ.
Economic Freedom Fighters MP Floyd Shivambu said it was a fact that Molefe had resigned and warned Brown that misleading Parliament was a criminal offence. "It is a nonsense explanation, it must be rejected outright," Shivambu said.
He added that he was aware that Eskom had been conducting job interviews for a new CEO before Molefe's abrupt return. DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said Brown's explanation was at odds with her usual transparency.
"I know her to be a minister who has always been upright and honest in her dealings and her doings. So I find her behaviour in this instance a complete outlier to the behaviour I have witnessed. Let's dispense with the nonsense – Brian Molefe had resigned from Eskom. "When he raised his right hand in the Speaker's corner, he tacitly resigned from Eskom."
He then asked Brown bluntly whether President Jacob Zuma had leaned on her to allow Molefe to return to Eskom. "Did President Jacob Zuma have a conversation with you and instruct you to reinstate Molefe?"
Steenhuisen and Shivambu demanded a full parliamentary inquiry into Eskom. Shivambu also rubbished Brown's view that Molefe had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing by former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela whose "State of Capture" report had recorded 44 phone calls between himself and the Gupta family and indications that Eskom bent over backwards to award a coal contract to their exploration company Tegeta.
He said, while Zuma was challenging Madonsela's directive that he appoint a commission of inquiry to further probe allegations that the state was being prescribed to by private business interests, Molefe had launched no challenge to her findings. Molefe left Eskom shortly after report was released, saying he was doing so in the interest of good governance, and took up a seat as an ANC MP.
AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY