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JOHANNESBURG — The future of two key players who have helped entrench President Jacob Zuma’s grip on state-owned enterprises looks very uncertain after they exited parastatals on a dramatic Monday. Ben (Baldwin) Ngubane officially quit as chair of Eskom while the SABC board announced that its former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is finally fired. Interestingly, Ngubane, while involved at the SABC, pushed Motsoeneng up the ranks at the broadcaster at the alleged behest of President Jacob Zuma. When Ngubane moved to Eskom, the rot of poor management followed him and the return and re-exit of the controversial Brian Molefe happened under his watch. Ngubane has also faced many a grilling in Parliament lately over his role at the SABC as well as Eskom. Are the wheels starting to turn for the Zupta empire now that these two are gone? – Gareth van Zyl
By Paul Burkhardt
(Bloomberg) – Ben Ngubane, the chairman of South Africa’s state power utility Eskom Holdings, has resigned amid management turmoil and probes into its financial dealings, weeks after its chief executive officer was removed.
“Ngubane formally tendered his resignation, which I accepted,” Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown said in the statement sent in a text message by spokesman Colin Cruywagen.
No reason was given for his decision and Cruywagen declined to comment further.
Ngubane steps down from the position amid an investigation of the state company by the Treasury, with two other probes planned. Former Chief Executive Officer Brian Molefe resigned from his role last year following a report by the nation’s graft ombudsman, or public protector, that found the utility had close ties to the Gupta family, who are in business with a son of President Jacob Zuma including a venture to supply coal to Eskom.
Molefe returned as CEO on March 15 before Brown removed him on the insistence of the ruling African National Congress two weeks later. Molefe is challenging his firing.
Brown said she appointed Zethembe Khoza as interim chairman “until I am able to take new board appointments to the Cabinet for approval.”
While Ngubane had defended Molefe and praised the company’s management for ending power shortages that had stifled the economy, Pravin Gordhan, who Zuma fired as finance minister in March, accused its directors of abusing state property and resources for their own gain and suggested a forensic audit into decision-making at the utility.
Ngubane told lawmakers last month that Molefe’s reappointment by the board as CEO was in the company’s best interests and the board would welcome an inquiry into its conduct. Eskom’s previous acting CEO Matshela Koko was suspended last month over allegations he awarded Eskom contracts to a company linked to his stepdaughter.
Its likely due to “the intractable mess of having two CEOs unavailable and no one running the company,” Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura International Plc in London, said of the resignation. “We can only call it a positive if we know the caliber of the person taking over as well as future of the CEO role.”
There have been at least seven investigations into alleged maladministration and corruption at Eskom, including the public protector’s report, Brown said last month. Although there have been no prosecutions or convictions, “Eskom’s reputation has been torn to shreds,” she said.
Silver lining at SABC after Hlaudi sacked: Mwasa
By Jenni Evans, News24
Cape Town – Hlaudi Motsoeneng‘s dismissal from the SABC presents an opportunity to rebuild the public broadcaster in a fast changing world, the Media Workers Association of SA (Mwasa) said on Monday.
“There is a silver lining to the SABC cloud after all but lots of goodwill and hard work would be required going forward,” said Mwasa general secretary Tuwani Gumani.
The SABC announced Motsoeneng’s dismissal earlier after he was found guilty following an internal disciplinary hearing where charges of bringing the SABC into disrepute and causing irreparable damage to his employer were investigated.
This followed a press briefing he held on April 19 where he laid into the interim board and the parliamentary ad-hoc committee on the problems at the SABC.
Since taking the helm, the interim board has reversed his decree that 90% of all music on SABC radio stations must be by local artists and that no violent protests be screened during news broadcasts.
Interim board chair Khanyisile Kweyama said at a press conference on Monday that Motsoeneng had no respect for his contract.
Meanwhile, Mwasa said the removal of Motsoeneng should herald the beginning of the reconfiguring of the operations and relevance of the public broadcaster.
“As matters stand, with six ministers since 2010, and a recently split communications mandate, the country lags leagues behind its peers in terms of digital migration while small-time ruling-party politics remain the order of the day,” said Gumani.
Ngubane’s resignation won’t exonerate him – DA
By Matthew le Cordeur, Fin24
Cape Town – The resignation of Ben Ngubane as Eskom chairperson will not exonerate him from an Eskom Parliamentary inquiry, the Democratic Party (DA) said late on Monday evening.
DA public enterprises spokesperson Natasha Mazzone told Fin24 that “Ngubane’s resignation will not exonerate him from liability for the breakdown of governance at the power utility”.
She said the DA will use the Parliamentary inquiry into Eskom starting on 21 June “to hold Ngubane to account”.
Late on Monday, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown announced that Ngubane “formally tendered his resignation”, which she accepted.
The announcement followed a tweet by Save South Africa member Chris Vick, which claimed Ngubane was “packing his bags”.
— Chris Vick (@chrisvick3) June 12, 2017
In response to the late-night announcement, Mazzone said the DA finds “the clandestine hour of Ngubane’s resignation announcement to be highly suspicious”.
The clarity on his resignation is key, as former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe announced he had “stepped down” in November 2016. Everyone, including Brown, thought he had resigned, when in fact he had requested early retired. His R30m early pension payout is now a matter of a labour court dispute, after his reinstatement as CEO was rescinded.
Ngubane has been named twice so far in the GuptaLeaks saga. Once due to a failed bid to secure a lucrative oil concession in the Central African Republic (CAR) as well as in the revelations about the capture of Eskom.
“I would like to thank Dr Ngubane for his contribution to turning Eskom around since the load shedding days of 2014/15, and wish him well in the future,” said Brown.
“To ensure continuity at Eskom, I have decided to appoint Mr Zethembe Khoza as interim chairperson until I am able to take new board appointments to Cabinet for approval.”
Ben Ngubane resigned at 11pm and not 10pm because he didn't wanna be called Ben 10 pic.twitter.com/ta6eC7SWPB
— Mphiliseni (@Mphiliseni) June 12, 2017
Khoza, who is an Eskom board member, was previously asked to step in as acting CEO in 2015, when Tshediso Matona was suspended. Molefe was then seconded from Transnet, before being made CEO. He resigned in 2016, following the Public Protector’s State of Capture report.
Eskom’s Annual General Meeting is scheduled to take place later this month.
What Ngubane has to answer for – DA
Mazzone said Ngubane’s resignation was “hot on the heels of damning revelations of the capture of Eskom leadership by the Guptas and the breakdown of corporate governance at Eskom”.
She said that Ngubane, “who presided over the retrenchment/retirement/rehire of Brian Molefe as Eskom CEO has much to answer for, not least of which includes Molefe’s R30m ‘golden handshake’ deal and an avalanche of accusations that the Guptas have milked Eskom over many years”.
She pointed to former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi’s accusation that Molefe and Ngubane “tried to strong-arm him to withdraw Glencore’s Optimum mining licences in order to guarantee that the Guptas takeover Glencore’s coal mines is yet to be probed”.
Additionally, she pointed to former acting Eskom CEO Matshela Koko’s R1bn “nepotism scandal, which occurred on Ngubane’s watch”, which she said is yet to be fully probed too.
“Ngubane has also recently been implicated in falsifying documents in a liquidation case,” she said.
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