Who is in control of South Africa? This is the burning question on many South Africans’ minds as Zupta-tainted Brian Molefe has made a shock return as Eskom CEO this week. ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe has said that government and state-owned Eskom must reverse the decision. But one has to question whether government will actually listen as the stark divisions within the ANC continue to paralyse sensible decision making and tears the party apart. Over seven years into a Zuma presidency, and this is the situation South Africa finds itself it. – Gareth van Zyl
By Paul Burkhardt and Sam Mkokeli
Bloomberg – The newly reinstated head of South Africa’s power utility has been accused of attempting to influence a former minister, reversed plans to close power plants that his predecessor claimed weren’t needed, and set the country’s ruling party against its president.
He’s only been back on the job for two days.
Brian Molefe, who returned as Eskom Holdings’ chief executive officer on Monday to staff posters welcoming back ‘Papa Action,’ was moved to tears when he left the role in November. He resigned following a graft probe by the Public Protector that found he made decisions favoring the Gupta family, who are friends with President Jacob Zuma. Molefe’s surprise reappointment, announced Friday by Eskom Chairman Ben Ngubane, sparked a backlash that’s stretched from opposition parties to labor unions and even the ruling African National Congress, which told the government to reverse the move.
“Politically and ethically the reinstatement stinks to high heaven,” Aubrey Matshiqi, an independent political analyst, said. “It seems to me that power has become so dispersed — that some power lies in the state, some power lies in the government, some power lies in powerful economic actors, some power lies in powerful families.”
Molefe’s reinstatement has exposed widening rifts within the ANC and between some party leaders and Zuma’s government. It’s revived scrutiny of the influence wielded by the Guptas, who are in business with the president’s son, Duduzane, and means investors must digest yet another surprise appointment, less than two months after Zuma replaced Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in a sweeping late-night cabinet overhaul.
ANC officials told the government that it should rescind Molefe’s reappointment at a meeting Monday attended by Zuma, party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said on Tuesday. Action should be taken immediately, he said. The Democratic Alliance, South Africa’s main opposition party, filed a court application on May 15 to set aside Molefe’s appointment.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe didn’t pick up a call seeking comment and the utility’s media desk didn’t immediately return an email seeking comment.
Molefe’s second day back was already off to a poor start after former South African Minerals Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi alleged the CEO was present during a 2015 meeting when Eskom Chairman Ngubane tried to pressure the then-minister into suspending Glencore Plc’s mining licenses in the country during a dispute between the two companies. Ngubane threatened to go to the president if the request was refused, Ramatlhodi said.
At the time, Eskom and Glencore were locked in a dispute after the utility refused to amend a supply contract for Glencore’s Optimum Coal Holdings that had become unprofitable. Eskom fined the producer about R2bn ($153 million) because its fuel didn’t meet specifications. Glencore later agreed to sell Optimum to Tegeta Exploration & Resources, which is part-owned by the Guptas and part-owned by Duduzane.
Zuma, the Guptas and Molefe have all denied any wrongdoing. Ramatlhodi’s claims are “preposterous,” Ngubane told reporters in Cape Town on Tuesday morning. He spoke after appearing at a conference in place of Molefe, who had been scheduled to speak but didn’t arrive.
The True ANC has rejected the Real ANC's rejection of Brian Molefe's reappointment by the Genuine ANC as rejected by the Legitimate ANC.
— Tom Eaton (@TomEatonSA) May 16, 2017
Molefe, who spent part of his time away from Eskom as an ANC lawmaker, has already reversed one of the biggest and more controversial decisions made by his predecessor. Then-acting CEO Matshela Koko had announced plans to close five older coal-fired power stations early, saying that a government program to procure renewable power from independent producers created a surplus.
The effect of closing the plants would be “devastating” to as many as 30,000 people who depend on them for their livelihood, Phasiwe said earlier Tuesday.
While Molefe left under a cloud last year, he oversaw the end to rolling blackouts in South Africa after joining Eskom as acting CEO in 2015 before being appointed permanently to the role. The utility’s board backed him publicly following the Public Protector’s November report and videos posted on Twitter Monday showed employees dancing and waving posters to welcome him.
— Zamaanie (@Zamaanie) May 16, 2017
Some analysts say the blackouts ended because they crippled the economy and caused demand for power to collapse. Electricity generated by Eskom’s plants fell to the lowest since 2006 in 2015, it said on its website.
The response to Molefe’s reappointment shows growing frustration in South Africa, Mike Davies, the founder of political advisory company Kigoda Consulting, said by phone on Tuesday.
“The longer they show that disregard for the conventional processes of the ANC and governance and good governance in general,” Davies said, “the more we’re likely to see a heightened sense of concern over what’s actually taking place.”
ANC tells Zuma government to reverse Molefe return as Eskom CEO
By Sam Mkokeli
Bloomberg – South Africa’s ruling African National Congress told President Jacob Zuma’s government that it should rescind a decision to reappoint Brian Molefe as the chief executive officer of the state power utility, Eskom Holdings, party Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe said.
ANC officials told the government of their position at a meeting Monday attended by Zuma, Mantashe said by phone from Johannesburg. The ANC previously condemned the reappointment of Molefe, who resigned as head of Eskom in November after a graft probe questioned his conduct.
“They should look into that; ideally they should reverse that decision,” Mantashe said on Tuesday. “We are hoping that they are starting on it immediately.”
The Public Protector found in a report last year that Molefe favored the Gupta family, which is in business with Zuma’s son, by awarding coal-supply contracts and helping them buy Optimum Coal Holdings He and Eskom denied wrongdoing, with Molefe crying in a November 3 briefing.