Chris Yelland: Musical chairs at state nuclear corporation – should axed Necsa CEO be re-hired?

On 4 December 2018, the former minister of energy, Jeff Radebe, fired the entire board of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa). This included former CEO Phumzile Tshelane. A day later Radebe appointed an entirely new board. Three of the fired board members filed an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court to have the decision reviewed and set aside. Finally, on 17 August 2019 a judge ruled in their favour, agreeing that the minister’s action was unlawful. However, reinstatement was impossible as their terms of office had expired. Chris Yelland, an expert on the business of energy has been following the trials and tribulations at Necsa, including the possible reappointment of Phumzile Tshelane as CEO. – Claire Badenhorst

Fired former nuclear CEO runs for office again

By Chris Yelland* 

It has been reliably learned that Phumzile Tshelane, the fired former CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) has re-applied for the position as CEO of the embattled state-owned enterprise.

Chris Yelland

Multiple sources, since confirmed by Necsa chairman David Nicholls, indicate that the interview process for selection of a new CEO from a list of nine candidates, which includes the fired former Necsa CEO, starts Monday 7 September 2020.

Other names on the list apparently include: Ayanda Myoli, the current acting CEO of Necsa; Ivan Radebe, MD of Pelchem and Ketlaphela Pharmaceuticals (both subsidiaries of Necsa); Thabo Tselane, chief technical officer of Necsa; and Loyiso Tyabashe, a senior manager: nuclear new-build, at Eskom.

However, the Necsa chairman insists that there can be no “short list” until after the interviews. “As I understand the Act on Necsa, the final approval/selection is by the minister, on the recommendation of the board. I presume that a ranked shortlist will be forwarded by the board to the minister in due course”, says Nicholls.

Read also: Eskom’s Majuba rail project delays reek of foul play – Chris Yelland

Nicholls previously acknowledged that the Necsa board had considered offering its former CEO a substantial sum in settlement of all issues and litigation after his dismissal by the former Necsa board following a disciplinary hearing chaired by Adv. Nazeer Cassim. It is understood that the board’s offer was rejected by Tshelane at the time.

There were then proposals for Tshelane to be reappointed as a consultant to Necsa, which the board authorised its chairman to present to Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe for approval. At the time it was suggested that this may be some kind of settlement in disguise, and possibly also a way back in for Tshelane as CEO.

However, Nicholls confirmed today that Necsa has since settled the issue of the claim Tshelane had in relation to the prior termination of his employment as CEO of Necsa, but has denied suggestions mentioning a monetary settlement of R4m to R6m.

Read also: Nuclear waste: Taxpayers’ money disappears in cloud at state entity Necsa – Chris Yelland

“I will not comment on the [settlement] amount, except to say it was nowhere near R6m”, said Nicholls.

Asked whether it may be considered irregular or contrary to good corporate governance for Tshelane to re-apply for the position of CEO after receiving a monetary settlement following his earlier dismissal after a disciplinary hearing, or whether the settlement precluded his return to Necsa as CEO again, Nicholls would not comment.

However, the Necsa chairman did add that in terms of resolving the matter of Tshelane’s dismissal, it was seen as necessary to resolve this dispute before the process of appointing a new group CEO could be started.

Necsa is the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa, a state-owned enterprise undertaking R&D and commercial activities in the field of nuclear energy and radiation sciences, and the production of medical nuclear radioisotopes and associated services. Necsa is also responsible for processing source material, including uranium enrichment, and co-operating with other institutions, locally and abroad, on nuclear and related matters.

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