Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has filed a scathing affidavit in which she admonishes former Eskom CE Brian Molefe for his urgent bid in the Labour Court to have his removal overturned.
Brown is denying the urgency of the matter as Molefe is “very wealthy” and he can “wait in line”, as all other South Africans would have to do.
The tone of the affidavit indicates that she has turned against both Molefe and the Eskom board. It starkly contrasts with her earlier stance, when she defended his return to Eskom and argued that he had not been found guilty of wrongdoing regarding the state capture allegations contained in the former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report.
In her affidavit, she stops short of calling Molefe a liar and argues that his reappointment at Eskom has been unlawful to begin with, therefore the legality of his removal is a moot point.
She also questions the existence of a legal opinion that the board used to justify Molefe’s reappointment without her approval and describes the board’s conduct as “suspicious”, adding that she has “lost confidence” in it.
Brown says the early retirement argument was a facade to justify irregular conduct.
“No reasonable person in Mr Molefe’s position … could have assumed that he would have been entitled to early retirement without checking the rules of the pension fund.”
She repeatedly calls for the court to hear oral evidence so that Molefe and the board can be subjected to cross-examination and document discovery.
Brown contends that her initial acceptance of Molefe’s reinstatement was based on information provided to her by the board — including the legal opinion it had said it had received, stating that her approval was not required.
She questions Molefe’s stated motives of wanting to protect the interests of Eskom by stepping aside, but at the same time receiving a R30m payout.
“The notion that the CE of Eskom — a corporation with a budget of several billion rand — would be so reckless in protecting its own interests, with respect, beggars belief,” she says.
Turning to the board, she says its conduct during a meeting with ministers on May 31 caused her to lose confidence in it. The only reason she had not dissolved it was potential “significant implications” for guarantees issued by Eskom and also its annual meeting, which takes place this week.
Around June 1, she and her staff had consulted with senior counsel to discuss the conduct of the board and concluded that its conduct had been “highly irregular”.
Her affidavit was filed days after embattled Eskom board chairman Ben Ngubane stepped down from his post, citing “personal reasons”.