Durban - South Africans reacted with disbelief on Monday as the South African National Defence Force defended its decision to call up sacked Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe.
Weekend reports claimed that Molefe, an honorary colonel, was serving with the SANDF and was offered a salary of R57 000 a month, backdated to August.
Molefe has been in the public eye since his departure from Eskom as its chief executive officer, following reports of links to the Gupta family, his subsequent swearing in as an MP, then a bid to return to Eskom and now his surprise appearance in the military.
“As previously stated, like many reserve force members who are called up to assist the defence force in many areas of expertise, Mr Molefe was called up on several occasions to provide the defence force with the required skill since he is a reserve force member,” said the Department of Defence.
“Mr Molefe is part of the specialist group of people who, time and again, would be called up for specific duties over a specific short-term period as per the requirement of the defence force,” it said.
The department said reserve members were called upon “a continuous or non-continuous” basis according to the requirements of the SANDF.
“For example, reserve members called up for border safeguarding are called up for a pre-deployment training period (37 days) and a six-month (180 days) deployment on the borders. At Army HQ, officers and other ranks are also called up for extended periods of time, when there is a requirement for expertise that is not otherwise available.”
The Department of Defence said that on May 14, 2011, the minister of defence appointed Molefe as an honorary colonel of the South African Irish Regiment.
“This appointment did not nullify his appointment as a reserve colonel but functions in tandem.
“A different set of rules governs the utilisation of honorary colonels as indicated in the regulations for the reserve force. In the case of his duties as an honorary colonel, Molefe may not and does not, receive remuneration.”
Defence Force spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said Molefe was part of a pool of “specialists” who will help the army with “auditing queries” from the auditor-general.
The department said it was strange that, of all the other members in the same category as Molefe, called up time and again, their call-ups never raised any eyebrows.
Meanwhile, the South African National Defence Union (Sandu) said the move was “perplexing”.
It said: “A valid call-up into active duty requires the incumbent to have a substantive military rank, obtained through military training and the appropriate qualification(s). It also requires that the officer holds a commissioned rank. Molefe meets none of these requirements. Molefe’s call-up is unlawful and fraudulent.”
The union said it would be filing criminal charges this week against Molefe and demanded his call-up be withdrawn immediately, failing which it would take legal action.
“It is incredulous that Molefe is involved in budgetary affairs of the SANDF, which inevitably provides him access to classified information when he holds no security classification as is required by the Defence Act.”
Molefe came under intense scrutiny during his time as Eskom chief executive officer following the release of then public protector Thuli Madonsela’s State of Capture report late last year.
Also read: Molefe 'still waiting to clear his name'
The Mercury reported previously that Molefe left Eskom following revelations in the report that Molefe and Ajay Gupta had 58 telephone conversations between August 2015 and March 2016.
Molefe briefly served as an MP in Parliament before a short-lived return to Eskom.
Molefe’s alleged R30million pension payout from Eskom was fiercely interrogated during a parliamentary inquiry last month.
Molefe could not be reached for comment on Monday night.