CAPE TOWN – A leaked document has unveiled details of how the managing director of a division of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa), Tina Eboka, conducted confidential correspondence with the National Nuclear Regulator, Bismark Tyobeka, without the knowledge of the former chairperson and chief executive.
Business Report can today reveal that Eboka and Tyobeka colluded in attempts to take the nuclear operating licence away from the Necsa chief executive Phumzile Tshelane in order to gain control of the NTP division.
The correspondence also reveals that former energy minister Jeff Radebe gave operational orders to Tshelane and Necsa’s former chairperson, Dr Kelvin Kemm.
Radebe is said to have instructed a board that replaced Kemm’s in December last year that Eboka be re-employed - against Tshelane and Kemm’s wishes. The former found that Eboka had not done her job correctly.
Radebe appointed a new board, which included Rob Adam as the new chairperson and Don Robertson as interim chief executive.
However, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that his actions were unlawful and set aside the decision.
In 2017, Kemm said that Necsa had found paperwork errors which NTP had not brought to Tshelane’s attention. The regulator then ordered the stoppage of the medical production line.
“One has to ask why did the NTP management under Eboka allow the situation to get to this point. An investigation by Tshelane indicated management lapses by Eboka. As a result, Tshelane put her on special leave while he addressed the production problems,” Kemm said.
“Management lapses were found, so Tshelane then converted the special leave of Eboka to suspension, pending a disciplinary enquiry. But Jeff Radebe ordered that Tshelane reinstate Eboka, despite the objections of both the chief executive and chairperson.”
Yesterday, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) said that a claim was that the medical isotope division, NTP of Necsa, was facing production problems.
“We are now alarmed to find that a year ago Eboka was conducting confidential correspondence with Tyobeka without the knowledge of the former chairperson and chief executive of Necsa. Tyobeka and Eboka were also communicating with former minister Jeff Radebe without the knowledge of the former chairperson and chief executive,” the union said.
When the medical production line first encountered problems in 2017, Tshelane ordered the stoppage of the operation of the Safari reactor as well for a while for financial reasons. This was to maintain profitability.
Tshelane ordered that the annual compulsory two-week maintenance stoppage should be carried out then. That effectively saved a compulsory stoppage which would have been required over the following couple of months.
The Safari reactor itself was not stopped for safety reasons, but the regulator action had huge financial implications, not only for that financial year but also for the future, due to damage to market confidence internationally. This stoppage led to a world shortage of nuclear medicine.
Necsa exports medicine to more than 60 countries.
Eboka and Tyobeka were not immediately available for comment.