Former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe File picture: Timothy Bernard/Independent Media
JOHANNESBURG - The North Gauteng High Court has declared former Eskom group chief executive Brian Molefe’s “early retirement” in 2016 and subsequent reinstatement last year unlawful, thereby removing a significant barrier in the recruitment of a new boss at the power utility.

Eskom has been plagued by leadership instability at a time when it is grappling with a myriad operational and financial problems.

Last year the DA, trade union Solidarity and Economic Freedom Fighters launched a High Court bid to review and set aside the reinstatement of Molefe as Eskom chief executive.

Yesterday the court ordered Molefe to repay the R11 million he had received as part of his pension payout from Eskom. Last weekend the Presidency announced the appointment of former Land Bank chief executive Phakamani Hadebe as interim chief executive with immediate effect. Hadebe became the fourth interim chief executive since the departure of Molefe at the end of December 2016.


The Presidency also directed the newly appointed Eskom board to appoint a permanent chief executive and chief financial officer within three months.

“The High Court decision will make it easier for Eskom to fill the chief executive position with speed, as per the directive of the government. Now that this matter has been clarified, the work to fill this position and that of the chief financial officer is going to commence,” Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said yesterday.

Eskom advertised for the group chief executive position last year but the recruitment process was aborted when the then board decided to reinstate Molefe in May.

Phasiwe said filling key vacant posts as well as addressing corporate governance failures at the utility were among matters discussed at Wednesday’s board meeting. He said it had also discussed the delayed release of financial results for the six months ended September 30 as well as the suspension of key employees.

He said the new board, chaired by businessman Jabu Mabuza, was reviewing all matters related to governance problems at Eskom, including the controversial decision by the previous board to reverse its earlier assertion that Eskom’s payments to global consultancy McKinsey were unlawful.

In October Eskom wrote to McKinsey and Gupta-linked firm Trillian to pay back R1.6 billion which it said had been unlawfully paid to the two companies. Last week McKinsey reiterated its willingness to pay back the money.

“We have no interest in being party to a contract entered into unlawfully by Eskom and have written to them five times asking them to initiate the necessary proceedings before the court. Even if Eskom chooses not to act to set aside the contract, we remain committed to returning the fees McKinsey earned in connection with the Turnaround Programme to South Africa,” McKinsey said.

But in an unexpected move, the previous board, under the chairmanship of Zethembe Khoza, declared the contract above board but still wanted McKinsey to repay the money.

“The new board wants to understand why it changed its previous position,” said Phasiwe.