The Chamber of Mines has expressed surprise at the government's decision to appoint Zola Tsotsi as new chairman of Eskom.

The chamber, which represents major mining companies, said it was “deeply concerned” that the government was so keen to remove Eskom's current chairman Mpho Makwana after he and Transnet chairman Mafika Mkwanazi after they “managed to bring stability to their respective organisations”.

Both these organisations from the chamber's vantage point “seemed to be in turbulence”.

“We therefore do not understand the logic behind their removal from office,” said the chamber.

Makwana, who served on the Eskom board since 2002, was made chairman a year ago after a row in which both then-chairman Bobby Godsell and CEO Jacob Maroga left the company.

Chamber of Mines chief executive Bheki Sibiya said while the chamber and its members were fully cognisant of the fact that the matter was an internal one between the shareholders of the two state owned enterprises and their officials, “it would be a dereliction of duty on our part, as major stakeholders in these organisations, to remain silent on this issue given its potential impact on our industry”.

“It has been our considered view, as the mining industry, that stability and efficiencies in these two enterprises are critical in ensuring a competitive and growing mining industry which is important to the economy of the country,” Sibiya said.

He added that while Denel has little or no impact on the mining industry, the principle of stability remained the same.

The chamber's comments follow news on Thursday that the chairmen of Eskom, Transnet and Denel - three of SA's more powerful state-owned companies - are to be removed by Public Enterprise minister Malusi Gigaba.

The choice of Tsotsi as new Eskom chairman makes sense as the only other candidate, Mafika Mkwanazi, already has his hands full as Transnet chairman, said former Eskom chief executive Allen Morgan.

During Thursday's post-Cabinet briefing Cabinet spokesperson Jimmy Manyi said there was nothing sinister in the changes and that government, as shareholder, was acting in a manner similar to what happened in private sector companies and refreshing the board.

“If you look at the Eskom board the chairman was appointed first in 2002 and he has been there since time immemorial and it was time to get fresh blood, fresh thinking, fresh insights. The changes have no bearing on the competence of any individual of the current board,” Manyi said.

Morgan, who served on Eskom's board until last year said he agreed that the changes were necessary and that the board needed to be refreshed. - I-Net Bridge