Judges tear a strip off Molefe and Eskom as society celebrates pension payback

CAPE TOWN — For those of us who thought the media was being a bit tough on old Brian “Saxonwold Shebeen” Molefe for his unsavoury snouting as Eskom CEO, three High Court judges have now confirmed the most dismal view of his and his board’s behaviour. Not only must he pay back his illegal pension millions, but the court tore a strip off him and others like him, ordering him to pay his and his adversary’s full legal costs. That hefty bill won’t land him in penury; he’s drawing two other salaries; one as an MP and another as a Defence Force honorary colonel. Here’s what the judges said; “What is most disturbing is the total lack of dignity and shame by people in leadership positions who abuse public funds with naked greed for their own benefit without a moment’s consideration of the circumstances of fellow citizens who live in absolute squalor throughout the country with no basic services”. It’s a champagne moment, a huge societal victory. It won’t be the last. The tsunami of sleaze that looked set to destroy all before is turning into a tsunami of truth, washing clean the sludge and excrement we’ve been forced to watch for so long. – Chris Bateman

By Rebecca Davis, Daily Maverick

The ruling delivered by Judge Elias Matojane was short and to the point.

Brian Molefe’s reinstatement to his position as Eskom CEO in May 2017 was “at variance with the principle of legality”, and is set aside.

Molefe’s claim that he never resigned from Eskom, but merely mistakenly accepted early retirement, is “false”.

Molefe’s pension agreement is invalid and any payments made to him “patently unlawful”.

Molefe must pay back the money he has already received from Eskom within 10 days, as well as covering the legal costs of the court matter.

File Photo: Brian Molefe speaks at the headquarters of Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

The ruling is a smack-down to Molefe and the former Eskom board, but a victory for applicants led by the trade union Solidarity but eventually including both the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters.

Molefe had previously argued that he and the Eskom board had mistakenly accepted early retirement after a tenure at the head of Eskom amounting to just 16 months, and that he should be reinstated as the CEO of the electricity board.

Read also: Pityana to Molefe; ‘Foolishly opted to be state capture tool rather than instrument of democracy’

When he left Eskom in December 2016, he was awarded a total pension package of R30-million, of which he reportedly asked for around R11-million in cash with the remainder to be paid out monthly. The money Molefe has already received will now have to be returned and he is ineligible for further ongoing payments.

While Molefe currently draws at least two salaries, it’s to be hoped that he didn’t blow his R11-million pay-out all at once now that it needs to be paid back. Molefe is employed both as an ANC member of Parliament and as a “reserve force” member of the South African National Defence Force. MPs take home just over R1 million per year, while Molefe’s SANDF salary is reported to be R57,000 a month.

Molefe was not in court on Thursday morning, and his phone was going straight to voicemail after the judgment.

OUTA welcomes Molefe ‘pay back the money’ judgment

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) welcomes the Pretoria High Court judgment that the pension payout to disgraced former Eskom CE Brian Molefe is unlawful and he must repay the lot.

OUTA believes that Thursday’s judgment by the Pretoria High Court is another significant blow against state corruption and a matter which also raises questions about Minister Lynne Brown’s conduct.

Molefe must repay the full amount he received from the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund, believed to be at least R10.327 million of the R30 million which Eskom tried to pay him.

Read also: Paul O’Sullivan promises a Selebi repeat for Brian Molefe: “I’ll put him in jail.”

“We cannot accept that Minister Brown and the Eskom board members could condone this payout, let alone allow Mr Molefe’s reinstatement as the CE in May 2016. This is a debacle which has made a mockery of the employment procedures and governance at this SOE,” says Wayne Duvenage, OUTA’s CEO.

The time for massive golden handshakes and payments to favour the friends of Jacob Zuma and others in high places must end. Additionally, those who seek to override due process within the state and its entities must also be held accountable for allowing this gross misconduct in the first place.

Brian “Saxonwold Shebeen” Molefe. More of Zapiro’s magic available at www.zapiro.com.

The judgment, written by Judge Matojane with Judge Fabricius and Judge Mphahlele concurring, was scathing of Molefe and the Eskom board and included this comment: “What is most disturbing is the total lack of dignity and shame by people in leadership positions who abuse public funds with naked greed for their own benefit without a moment’s consideration of the circumstances of fellow citizens who live in absolute squalor throughout the country with no basic services.”

The judgment found that Molefe had indeed resigned, not retired. It also noted that the claims that Molefe hadn’t been able to accumulate pension benefits, which the board used to support the pension manipulation, were not true as he had significant earnings from various positions in state employment.

“We trust this judgment will serve as a precedent and signal the beginning of the end of lucrative and fraudulent conduct of this nature within SOEs and the state as a whole,” says Duvenage.