In one of the strongest rebukes of an ANC deployee, the governing party said the latest developments around the reinstatement of Brian Molefe as Eskom boss amounted to perjury.
This was while an ANC parliamentary group charged that Brown and Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane’s failure to give satisfactory answers on Molefe gave rise to a suspicion that there was fraud when he was made an MP.
Brown and Ngubane faced a grilling from MPs yesterday, with former finance minister Pravin Gordhan asking what their relationship was with President Jacob Zuma’s controversial friends the Guptas.
ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the contradictory statements by Eskom and Brown before the portfolio committee on public enterprises called for decisive action by Parliament.
Kodwa said according to the “incoherent version” yesterday, Molefe had never resigned from Eskom, but was on unpaid leave instead.
This, Kodwa argued, was in direct contradiction of Molefe’s own statement when he left the utility that he was doing so in the interest of good corporate governance.
The statements also contradicted Brown’s letter in November in which she approved the appointment of Matshela Koko as acting chief executive following the “resignation of Mr Brian Molefe”.
“On the strength of the representations from Brown and Molefe, the ANC acceded to his nomination as member of Parliament,” said Kodwa.
“Not only are these latest developments disingenuous, to say the least, they amount to perjury. The ANC calls on the government and Parliament to act decisively to deal with this irrational and untenable situation,” said Kodwa.
On Monday, Molefe and Eskom told the court that he and the company were under the mistaken belief that he was eligible for early retirement when he left.
Pressed on the perjury comments, Kodwa said the story on Molefe had been “changing every day”.
Independent legal counsel advocate Ben Winks said he thought what the ANC was referring to as perjury were the affidavits filed in the litigation.
“Remember, Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane, Minister Lynne Brown and Brian Molefe himself filed affidavits under oath on the issue of early retirement.
“They said: ‘No we didn’t realise he (Molefe) was not entitled to early retirement.’
“If you file an affidavit under oath or make any false statements under oath, deliberately, that amounts to perjury. You can be imprisoned for up to two years.”
Eskom has been flip-flopping on the reasons why Molefe was reinstated, moving from saying he had resigned to now offering early retirement as the reason.
Zukiswa Rantho, the acting chairperson of the ANC study group on public enterprises, said Molefe’s reappointment should be scrapped and a parliamentary commission instituted.
She lambasted Brown and Ngubane, saying they lacked comprehension of the crisis they had caused at Eskom.
“The department and the board failed to clarity the basis of Mr Molefe’s reinstatement as chief executive officer of Eskom. There were a series of questions posed to both the minister and the board which were not satisfactory answered,” she said.
“The explanations provided around Mr Molefe’s state of employment at Eskom, or lack thereof, raise serious questions around possible fraud on his part at the time of being sworn in as a member of Parliament,” she added.
Rantho said they wanted to get to the bottom of the issues at the power utility and said she would approach National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete to institute an inquiry into Eskom.
The committee wanted all the documents from Eskom within 14 days, and the inquiry would begin a few days after that.
Brown told the committee she would institute an investigation into Eskom, and had roped in the Special Investigating Unit.
Gordhan, who is a member of the committee, said there was “a lot of rot” at Eskom.
He said the utility must open its books so that people could see what was going on.
“Why can’t we have a retired judge or senior counsel to come and look at all the facts?” he asked.
He said a thorough forensic investigation at Eskom was needed and called on Brown to launch it.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen said Eskom was taking Parliament for a ride with its various explanations regarding Molefe’s reappointment.
He said it was clear Molefe was not on leave as now claimed by Eskom, but he had resigned to become an MP.
“When Brian Molefe raised his right arm in the Speaker’s parlour, in the building across the road, he tacitly resigned from Eskom,” said Steenhuisen.
Ngubane said the board would welcome any forensic probe into Eskom.
“This board will welcome any type of forensic investigation into Eskom. We will welcome it tomorrow, not next year,” said Ngubane.
He said the Eskom board had worked hard to get the utility onto a sound financial footing.
Ngubane added that the courts would decide whether Molefe’s reappointment was illegal.
Neither Ngubane nor Molefe could be reached for comment.