Questions sent to Gordhan through his spokesperson Sam Mkokeli on Friday were not answered at the time of publication. Picture: Ian Landsberg/ANA Pics
Questions sent to Gordhan through his spokesperson Sam Mkokeli on Friday were not answered at the time of publication. Picture: Ian Landsberg/ANA Pics

Eskom snubs Black woman for top post

By Karabo Ngoepe Time of article published Aug 2, 2020

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By Mzilikazi Wa Afrika and Karabo Ngoepe

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has revoked the appointment of the first black woman to be the chairperson of Eskom pension and provident fund and instead appointed Caroline Henry to the position.

Sunday Independent can reveal that Mantuka Maisela received an official letter signed by Eskom chief financial officer Calib Cassim informing her of her “appointment as Eskom pension and provident fund chairperson” on May 29.

Cassim stated in his letter that Maisela’s appointment was subject to the “finalisation of the governance process” by Gordhan.

Two-weeks later, on June 12, Cassim wrote another letter announcing Maisela’s removal from the position, also replacing her as a trustee.

Black Securities and Investment Professionals president and Financial Sector Transformation Council chairperson Polo Leteka-Rabede on Saturday said she had reached out to Gordhan on July 2 when she heard about this “abnormality”.

“My understanding is that the minister appoints the chairperson (of the Eskom pension and provident fund), and I reached out to him because I wanted him to help me understand these abnormalities.

“How do you appoint the first African as the chairperson and replace her two weeks later with a white woman, reversing all the gains of transformation?” Leteka-Radebe said.

She said Gordhan promised to give her a full explanation in two days, but to date he had failed to come back to her. She called him again but this time the minister said she must speak to Eskom chief executive officer Andre de Ruyter, who is yet to meet with her.

“My initial meeting with De Ruyter was postponed and I was shocked when I saw the announcement that they appointed Caroline Henry before we could even get to the bottom of this issue.”

Questions sent to Gordhan through his spokesperson Sam Mkokeli on Friday were not answered at the time of publication.

Black Management Forum (BMF) president Andile Nomlala yesterday said his organisation had “noted the sustained and consistent disrespect shown by Minister Gordhan on black professionals”.

“Ms Maisela was appointed as the chairperson of the Eskom pension fund, only for Minister Gordhan to substitute her less than two weeks later and appoint a white person instead. Sadly, this is consistent with what Minister Gordhan has been doing with the SOEs where highly competent appointees are not confirmed by the minister for no apparent reason.”

Nomlala said BMF intended to challenge this act by Gordhan.

He said BMF “is currently in consultation with its lawyers to decide on the best way to stop this assault on good governance and black professionals in particular”.

The EFF, which this week opened a case of fraud, corruption and nepotism at Sandton police station against Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer after the Sunday Independent exposé, said it noted with dismay the appointment of Henry as the new chairperson of the board of trustees of the Eskom pension fund.

“The appointment of Henry continues the disturbing tradition of appointing white individuals to key positions in the management of public affairs since the ascendance of Cyril Ramaphosa to the Presidency.

“Mr Ramaphosa is ably aided by Minister Jamnandas in reversing whatever little gains there were over the past two decades, of ensuring that Africans are represented across all sectors of leadership, particularly in the leadership of state-owned enterprises.

“The powers that be could not reconcile themselves with having such a strong African CEO in charge of such a lucrative pension fund without having a white person in the board to whom the CEO must account.

“It doesn’t make sense for a government with a black president presiding over it to get rid of a non-disputably capable, qualified and strong woman like Ms Maisela as the chairperson of the Eskom pension fund with a less capable white woman. It undermines the transformational aspirations of the majority in the country and is a massive vote of no confidence in the ability of African leadership,” the statement said.

The party added that it was not surprised because ever since Gordhan became minister of public enterprises, “he has made sure that he replaces all Africans in leadership positions at state-owned enterprises with white people. At Eskom, he appointed Andre Ruyter as CEO and Jan Oberlhozer as COO. At Denel, he facilitated the appointment of Danie du Toit as CEO. At SAA, another white man in the form of Phillip Saunders was appointed as acting CEO, and at Mango Airlines, Nico Bezuidenhout was appointed as CEO.

“We have previously stated that Gordhan hates African leadership and that wherever he goes, he makes sure that those Africans who do not hero-worship him are marginalised and kicked out of their positions.”

Meanwhile, an Eskom board member, Sifiso Dabengwa, resigned this week after the board decided to cancel a five-year contract worth R5.2billion awarded to Econ Oil & Energy, a company owned by Nothemba Mlonzi, last November.

Dabengwa believes the board was using a report by advocate Wim Trengrove SC as motivation to cancel the contract with Econ Oil & Energy.

In his resignation letter to Gordhan, Dabengwa said he didn’t agree with the findings of the report.

“To date, there has been no evidence of fraud and corruption to the tender in question,” Dabengwa wrote.

Eskom, in a press statement, said it had commenced a process to cancel the fuel oil supply contract awarded to Econ Oil & Energy during 2019.

“A review of the circumstances leading to the tender being awarded to the company revealed serious irregularities in the process, including inflated prices charged to Eskom when lower-priced alternatives were evident. Eskom has written to the supplier notifying them of its intention to have the contract terminated through the legal process.”

Eskom yesterday confirmed that “Maisela was appointed” as chairperson of its pension fund but her appointment was reversed after they realised she had served on the board for a total of 16 years, which exceeded the recommended tenure.

Sunday Independent

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