File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has welcomed the appointment of power utility Eskom's new board, to be chaired by Telkom board chairman Jabu Mabuza. 

"Saftu wishes them well in the colossal task that lies ahead of them - to rescue a vital part of South Africa’s economic infrastructure from bankruptcy and implosion, which would have potentially catastrophic consequences for consumers, workers, and economic activity as a whole," Saftu said in a statement on Sunday.

"The former board was deeply implicated in acts of corruption and mismanagement and had lost all credibility. It had to go and those implicated directors and executives must now face the consequences of their actions in the courts. Saftu hopes that this new approach will set a precedent for all the other state-owned enterprises [SoEs] whose directors and executives have presided over similar actions as those at Eskom to be dismissed, replaced, and prosecuted." 

The same approach should also be taken to public institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks), the South African Revenue Service (SARS), and others which had prevented legal action "against those whom against there was clear prima face evidence of corruption and other criminal offenses".

READ MORE: ANC welcomes appointment of new Eskom CEO, board chair

"They have in effect become accessories in the crimes for which they are refusing to prosecute the offenders, and they too must now be dismissed and brought before the courts. Saftu congratulates all those, including the federation itself, who have been campaigning for this kind of tough action against Eskom heads and all the others involved in corruption," the trade union federation said.

On Saturday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa announced far reaching measures intended to improve governance as well as restore the integrity of Eskom.

He said Phakamani Hadebe had been appointed acting CEO with immediate effect, while Mabuza would take over as chairman of the board. All Eskom executives facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety, including Matshela Koko and Anoj Singh, would be "removed immediately". The new board had also been instructed to appoint a permanent group chief executive officer and a group financial officer within the next three months.

This followed a meeting of President Jacob Zuma, Ramaphosa, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, and Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Friday to address urgent problems at the company. This intervention would be ratified by Cabinet at its next meeting.

"Eskom is critical to the South African economy. As a key enabler of economic growth and social transformation any further deterioration of Eskom’s financial and operational conditions could have a severe impact on the country."

The company had been facing several problems, including a weak financial position, declining revenues, and governance failures, which threatened the sustainability of the company in future.

Therefore, government had decided on immediate measures to strengthen governance and management. This was the first step towards restoring confidence in the company, improving its financial position, and restoring its operational performance, he said.

The new board members are Jabu Mabuza (chairman); Sifiso Dabengwa; Sindi Mabaso-Koyana; Mark Lamberti; Tshepo Mongalo; Malegapuru Makgoba; Busisiwe Mavuso; Nelisiwe Magubane; Rod Crompton; George Sebulela; Pulane Molokwane; Banothile Makhubela; and Jacky Molisane.

Government called on all Eskom employees and other stakeholders who may have evidence of wrongdoing to bring this to the attention of law enforcement agencies so that culprits could be brought to book. 

The ministers of public enterprises, energy, and finance would work together under Ramaposa's leadership to deal with other structural issues, which included the funding model and other industry problems identified by the inter-ministerial committee on SoEs reform.

“We are confident this intervention will restore the important contribution Eskom makes to our economy. We are determined to address the damage that has been done to this institution and place it on a new path of efficiency and integrity," said Ramaphosa, who also chairs the inter-ministerial committee.

African News Agency/ANA