Former Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane said he left Eskom on good terms because he was taking up an offer elsewhere. File picture: Mlandeli Puzi/Parliament of RSA
Johannesburg – Former Eskom chairperson Ben Ngubane has denied being involved in a spat with Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown over the board’s decision to pick Zethembe Khoza as the acting chief executive.

Brown, after being sharply criticised for her indecisiveness, after Eskom had lurched from crisis to crisis, has suddenly started cracking the whip in a bid to rid the troubled electricity utility of its growing scandal-tainted reputation.

Ngubane said on Sunday he left Eskom on good terms because he was taking up an offer elsewhere – and not because of a spat with Brown.

He confirmed he had met with Brown to present the names of people to be appointed acting CE.

“We went to talk about the acting CE position. Among the names was Zethembe Khoza because he acted in this position before,” he said.

“The minister said we should go back and present her with two more names,” he said.

He declined to give the names of the other people on the list that was later given to Brown.

But he said at that point he decided to leave, not because of the issue of names, but because he had received a job offer.

He had to respond quickly, he said, because that offer had a timeframe to it, which was about to lapse.

He insisted he had never fought with Brown.

Ngubane, a former IFP leader whose name has featured prominently in the leaked Gupta e-mails relating to state capture, and also in the then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture Report, confirmed last week that he and businessman Salim Essa, an associate of the Guptas, had travelled to the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013 to investigate business possibilities in the oil and gas industry.

“The plan was to go to West Africa and to buy oil blocks. A company from India was going to drill these blocks – and we were going to sell the oil for huge sums of money,” he said.

He said Essa had arranged a trip to the CAR for March 2013, with the Guptas having made a private jet available to them for the journey.

The trip had been called off because of the civil war in the CAR at that time, he said.

Ngubane’s departure comes on the eve of Eskom’s annual general meeting on Friday where Brown is expected to fire the board.

Brown has taken tough stances in recent times against the Eskom board and executives.

She overturned Eskom’s decision to give former CE Brian Molefe a R30million pension payout.

The matter is now a subject of litigation in the High Court after Molefe challenged his dismissal from the power utility, with one of the issues to be decided being the reason for Molefe having initially left Eskom

The utility’s decision to re-appoint him into his old position of CE also became a bone of contention – until opposition parties objected to his re-appointment and took the matter to court.

In the ongoing saga, the cabinet’s inter-ministerial committee then ordered Brown to reverse Molefe’s re-appointment.

Brown has insisted she will use Friday’s AGM to rotate the Eskom board. This was confirmed by her spokesperson Colin Cruywagen.

Eskom is facing multiple investigations after the latest events. On Wednesday the portfolio committee on public enterprises will discuss its inquiry into Eskom.

The committee had said it wanted to investigate the report at the power utility after Molefe’s re-appointment and a number of lucrative coal contracts involving the Guptas.

Brown has roped in the special investigating unit to look at seven previous reports into Eskom.

The investigations were conducted from 2007 and Eskom has never made the reports public. Brown has said she wanted the SIU to conduct an in-depth investigation into Eskom.

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