JOHANNESBURG – Energy Minister Jeff Radebe has lambasted former members of the National Energy Corporation (Necsa) for defiance and placing Necsa subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes, the international supplier of nuclear medicine used in cancer treatment, at risk of losing market share.
On Thursday, Radebe fired the entire Necsa board including the chairperson, Kelvin Kemm, and also placed group chief executive Phumzile Tshelane on precautionary suspension.
Radebe was scathing on Friday, alleging the board had been responsible for financial mismanagement, remuneration irregularities and unauthorised international travel.
“The continued ineptitude and deliberate acts of defiance resulted in various setbacks and losses, such as the non-production of medical isotopes for over a year following the shutdown of the NTP, which the Necsa board failed to resolve when it was within their capacity to do so,” Radebe said.
NTP, which supplies a third of the world’s medical radioisotope molybdenum-99, had recently returned to production and was one of the only state-owned entities that was profitable last year.
The National Nuclear Regulator had shut down NTP on safety concerns.
Radebe said the board’s signing of a memorandum of understanding with Russia’s Rusatom Healthcare, against his instruction that it should not do so, was a case in point.
Kemm denied the allegations and referred Business Report to his lawyers. Douglas Molepo, an attorney at ENS Africa, said he would launch an urgent court interdict against Radebe on Friday on behalf of Kemm.
“We are saying we want to review and set aside the minister's decision to appoint a new board and fire the chief executive.
“We believe that his decision is completely irrational and has violated the right to be heard. He did not give them the opportunity to be heard and he did not apply his mind,” said Molepo. Molepo said he would apply for a court hearing on January 18.
Radebe said he had written to the board members to give compelling reasons why they should not be relieved of their duties and he was not convinced of their ability to resolve the issues.
Deputy Minister Thembisile Majola, who was also at the press conference, said the NTP played a crucial role in the global production of medical isotopes and the department’s intervention was of national importance.
“It was not only a matter of fixing the company but globally there was going to be a major shortage. It was in the nick of time that we have come to get it back online,” she said, adding that the company had resumed operations on November 17.
On Friday, Radebe said he would visit Necsa staff.
“The staff morale is low. We are going to visit the employees at Phelindaba to assure them that the future is bright,” he said.