Editorial: New controversy around Molefe

Newly re-appointed Eskom CEO Brian Molefe has only been back in the hot seat a few days but already a new controversy is swirling around him.

Molefe was – and we think still is – tainted by rumours of too cosy a relationship with the Guptas, specifically that he helped the influential Saxonwold family to buy out the Optimum coal mine.

Yesterday, former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramathlodi said Molefe had pressured him to enable this irregular transaction to go through and he furthermore named Eskom chairman Ben Ngubane as another who tried to force his hand on the takeover.

Molefe’s reinstatement at Eskom was in itself a surprise as in November, after the release of the former public protector’s report on state capture, he tearfully resigned with the promises of a R30-million pay-out sweetener to come.

In between, he had a whirlwind fling as a member of parliament but failed to clinch a ministerial position, in particular the plum post of finance minister. Perhaps, having been blocked from plucking this juicy fruit, he saw his old job at Eskom as a better way forward?

Certainly as the head of Eskom he was widely expected to attend Africa Utility Week in Cape Town. However, Molefe was a no-show at the opening of the important energy summit yesterday, with no credible reason given.

Either way, he is back at the helm and although the same questions about suitability and ethics are emerging, his defenders have sprung into action, first among them Ngubane, who challenged the Ramathlodi claims.

However, there are just too many unanswered questions, among them the issue of his departure and whether it constituted resignation or retirement.

Why did Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and the board want Molefe back as CEO of the parastatal?

Why does Ngubane say it is “impossible” that Molefe may be implicated in the Optimum coal deal?

This was how Ngubane responded yesterday to Ramathlodi‚ who accused both men of trying to force him to suspend mining licences so the Gupta family could buy Optimum.

The voices screaming for an explanation come from members of the ANC, DA and the SACP, all of which have condemned Molefe’s re-appointment and called for the decision to be reversed.

We await answers.

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