Former Chief Executive Officer of Eskom Brian Molefe. File Image: IOL

JOHANNESBURG - Embattled former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe yesterday took a swipe at his former employers, described their attempts to distance the power utility from his legal woes as deplorable.

In court papers filed to the North Gauteng High Court, Molefe said Eskom had disengaged itself from subsequent legal battles since Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown instructed the board to rescind a decision to reinstate him.

He said this was not a position Eskom was entitled to adopt. "It is a pre-eminent state-owned corporation in South Africa and an organ of state which is inextricably involved in the various issues raised in this application and in other applications," said Molefe. 

Molefe is fighting it out with Trade union Solidarity and the Democratic Alliance (DA) who have gone to court in a bid to have his R30 million pension payout set aside and declared unlawful. Solidarity also wants the court to set aside Eskom board's decision in May this year to reinstate Molefe. 

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Brown has not opposed the applications. She said that when Molefe announced that he would leave Eskom last year, she assumed that he had resigned. Brown insisted that Molefe did not inform her that he intended to apply for early retirement when they subsequently met. "Had he done so, I would have been very disturbed by such revelation and would have questioned it," Brown said, adding that it was inconceivable how the Eskom board would approve his application for early retirement when he had not even served the full term of his five-year contract. 

"The board simply signed away approximately R30 million without any benefit whatsoever to Eskom," said Brown. 

Molefe however argued that Eskom had a constitutional duty to provide information regarding his employment and his membership of the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund (EPPF). "The attempt by Eskom to rely on the Minister's (Brown’s) letter to extricate itself and to shift attention away from its own conduct is deplorable," said Molefe. 

He has launched a Labour Court bid to declare his dismissal unlawful. 

Arnold Subel for Molefe was under the impression that he was eligible for early retirement. "He stepped down thinking he would get early retirement," said Subel. 

But Paul Kennedy for DA accused Molefe of maneuvering in order to get a benefit he was not entitled to. 

He said also failed to inform Brown of his intention to take early retirement. "It was all done under the radar. One has to wonder why," said Kennedy. He said Eskom's decision to reinstate Molefe in May this year fundamentally irrational. 

The court reserved judgement.  Meanwhile, ratings agencies Moody's Investor Services and S&P yesterday added to Eskom's woes when they lowered the power utility's rating. S&P lowered Eskom's long-term local and foreign currency credit rating to 'B-' from 'B+' with negative outlook. Moody's downgraded Eskom from 'Ba2' to Ba3The downgrades could further weaken Eskom liquidity and could constrain access to finance.  The ratings reflect Eskom's credit worthiness. 

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Eskom acting chief financial officer Calib Cassim said: "We are committed to ensuring an improvement of our liquidity levels and restoring the positive the positive lender and investor sentiment to unlock access to the markets. We remain positive that, with the co-operation of the relevant participants, the funding plan can still be executed, albeit under challenging conditions."