Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has withdrawn her opposition to the court application for the reappointment of Brian Molefe as CEO of Eskom be set aside.
“I will abide by the decision of the court,” Brown told Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises on Tuesday morning.
Molefe’s return to the head of the power utility he left under a cloud of corruption allegations in November has been met with widespread condemnation, including from Brown’s colleagues in the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
She told the committee she did not “expect that society would universally welcome Mr Molefe’s return”, but had thought that the presumption of innocence and fact that he would be under intense scrutiny would mitigate concerns.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) last week filed a two-fold application in the North Gauteng High Court, asking that Molefe be prevented from performing any functions at Eskom and that his reappointment be rescinded.
Brown said in terms of the first part of the application, that he be stopped from working, she had reserved her rights.
Opposition MPs criticised Brown for not submitting her affidavit to the committee on Tuesday morning, not giving MPs all documents relating to Molefe’s reappointment and the proposed R30-million pension payout she rejected earlier, preferring instead that he return to his old post.
Brown said she had for months believed that Molefe had resigned last year but learnt in April that he had in fact asked for early retirement.
She said Molefe’s initial contract with Eskom had been signed in terms of an earlier memorandum of incorporation which did not, unlike the later 2016 one, oblige the board to inform the minister of the terms of employment of the CEO.
Eskom board chairperson Ben Ngubane declined to give the committee further clarity on the negotiations around both Molefe’s departure and his return, saying the matter was before the court.
DA chief whip John Steenhuisen countered that the sub judice rule was obsolete and said Eskom had no excuse not to account to Parliament.