Nicola Mawson. Picture: Matthews Baloyi
Brian Molefe, tipped in March to be the new finance minister, is back in the hot seat at Eskom after a brief stint as an MP.

And that shuffle has not happened without a considerable amount of controversy, with conspiracy theories abounding and court cases on the go.

Back in March, when Molefe was appointed a member of Parliament, the scuttle bud was that he would replace then finance minister Pravin Gordhan.

A well-placed source tells me that didn’t happen because - even though President Jacob Zuma got his way with ousting his nemesis - Zuma was blocked from appointing yes-men into key positions.

Instead, a compromise was reached, apparently - despite what the top echelons of the ruling party say - and Malusi Gigaba was seconded from Home Affairs.

This, then, may explain why Molefe is back at Eskom.

Granted, he’s done quite a bit to stabilise the embattled power utility, which was previously limping along and turning power off for great swaths of time. So much so that I suspect the generator business is not doing all that well at the moment.

But his return to the power utility has been rather contentious.

Problematic

There was the issue of his R30 million pension payout - I’d like just the interest on that - which was problematic, because he’d hardly been at Eskom long enough to earn a gold watch.

That was reversed by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, and rightly so - it’s an obscene amount of money, no matter how much good he did.

And then Molefe came back. And now the news is that he didn’t quit, but rather took early retirement, and there are admissions that this was actually gone about in the wrong way.

The board erred, Molefe couldn’t legally take early retirement, it’s very sorry, the mess will be sorted out etc.

I’m not the only one who smells a rat here.

Read also: Brown to abide by court's decision over #Molefe

The DA has filed a two-fold application in the Pretoria High Court asking that Molefe, who left Eskom in November, be prevented from performing any functions at Eskom and that his reappointment be rescinded.

Gordhan has slammed the entire board, suggesting that it really doesn’t follow good governance. That may just be sour grapes, but - given the level of corruption in SA - he probably has a point. And Parliament is also probing the whole sorry mess.

What irks me is the excuse that he was on extended, unpaid, leave.

Really? You want South Africans - who are generally not stupid - to swallow that one?

Back in November, Molefe sent out - via Eskom’s media office - a one-and-a-half page letter in which he said he had “decided to leave my employ at Eskom”.

This, he wrote, was because of aspersions cast upon him by former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into state capture.

Molefe wrote that her report, State of Capture, made observations that linked Molefe to the controversial Gupta family. Molefe said these were inaccurate, and denied any wrongdoing.

He also said that the report caused reputational harm to not only himself, but also to Eskom. And that, “when the time comes”, he will be able to clear his name. We’re still waiting for that time.

Read also: Molefe to be Minister of Finance - sources

As a result, he wrote: “I have, in the interests of good corporate governance, decided to leave my employ at Eskom from January 1, 2017.

"I do so voluntarily: indeed, I wish to pay tribute to the unfailing support I have had since I took up office from the chairperson, the board and with those with whom it has been my privilege to work. Together, we brought Eskom back from the brink.

“I will take time off to reflect before I decide on my next career move.”

Granted, Molefe never explicitly said he quit. However, the wording clearly implies that’s what he did. And time off to contemplate? Did he think long and hard before deciding a career as an MP was the right move? And then that it was better to return to Eskom?

New era

Yet, as I write this, I know I can’t come down too hard on Molefe for 'quitting'. This column is my last for Independent Media, as I’m changing careers. It has been an honour, and a privilege, to edit Business Report’s website for the past almost two years, take it to new heights, and engage with you.

The site will now be in Wesley Diphoko’s capable hands, and I’m sure he will push it to new heights, and continue to provide you with value. Thanks for your feedback, and support.

BUSINESS REPORT