The Mail & Guardian has reported that Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and Eskom CEO Brian Molefe said in affidavits that he was on “unpaid leave” when he served as a member of Parliament.
These affidavits were filed following an application in the North Gauteng High Court by the DA which seeks to remove Molefe as Eskom CEO.
The first part of the DA’s urgent application aims to interdict Molefe from performing any duties as Eskom CEO, and prevent him from receiving any benefits associated with the position.
The second part requests that the court review and set aside the reappointment of Molefe as Eskom CEO, as the DA believes it was irrational.
“Molefe is deeply connected to the Gupta family, the chief suspects in the capture of state institutions and enterprises for their own benefit,” said the DA.
“Molefe remains implicated in the dodgy Tegeta and Optimum Coal contracts which benefitted the Guptas directly.”
Molefe leaves Eskom, then returns
In November 2016, Molefe said in a statement: “I have, in the interests of good corporate governance, decided to leave my employ at Eskom from January 1, 2017.”
On 23 February this year, Molefe was sworn in as ANC member of Parliament for the party’s branch in the North West.
He was expected to replace Pravin Gordhan as finance minister, but this did not happen.
In April, the Sunday Times reported that Molefe was to receive a R30-million golden handshake after serving as Eskom CEO for 18 months.
Minister Brown rejected the R30-million payout, and said reinstating Molefe as CEO was the only solution.
Since then, there have been conflicting reports on what really happened when Molefe left Eskom.
Eskom board spokesperson Khulani Qoma said earlier this month that Molefe “did not resign – he applied for an early retirement”.
“That is why we were able to reinstate him because he asked for an early retirement and the board granted him that.”
Molefe and Eskom board chairman Ben Ngubane said Molefe’s early retirement was a “common fundamental mistake”.
Ngubane added that Molefe never resigned from Eskom.
In her affidavit, Brown said:
On 11 November 2016, Mr. Molefe resigned as CEO of Eskom. I issued a press statement… stating that I respected his decision to resign. At the time I made this statement, I was not aware of the fact that Molefe had in fact applied for early retirement and that Eskom had on 11 November 2016 accepted such application. I was under the impression that this was a case of a unilateral resignation and nothing more.
The latest report from the Mail & Guardian states that Brown and Molefe said in sworn statements that he was on “unpaid leave”.
“Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe never resigned from the company, both he and Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown agree in new affidavits,” stated the report.
“Instead, under a new agreement, he is now formally considered to have been on unpaid leave during the period he served as a member of Parliament.”
Public documents rubbish the claims
While a court battle is likely to decide Molefe’s fate, documents in the public domain make the “unpaid leave” argument challenging.