The board at State-owned power utility Eskom announced on Thursday that Johnny Dladla had been appointed acting group CEO with immediate effect.
The position of CEO and acting CEO has been vacant since late May, when a decision was made to rescind the highly controversial reappointment of Brian Molefe, which was ostensibly made in order to avoid a R30-million early-retirement payment – a payment which should not have been approved in terms of Eskom's own rules governing early retirement.
Molefe initially stepped down in January in the wake of a damning Public Protector report, which raised questions about a hastily concluded prepayment deal with a Gupta-family-linked coal mining business and also "observed" that there appeared to be close relationship between Molefe and the controversial family. In her 'State of Capture' report, former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela detailed cellphone records showing that, between the period August 2, 2015, and March 22, 2016, Molefe, then CEO, called Ajay Gupta 44 times and Gupta called Molefe 14 times.
In addition, Matshela Koko, who was appointed interim CEO when Molefe initially stepped down and took up a position as an African National Congress MP, is currently on leave. Koko’s leave was sanctioned to allow for forensic and legal investigation into a potential conflict of interest relating to contracts with his stepdaughter, Koketso Choma, to be finalised.
Gupta-linked newspaper The New Age quoted unnamed sources on Thursday stating that Koko had been “cleared” of any wrongdoing by independent investigators Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Nkonki Incorporated. The sources also told the newspaper that the exoneration of Koko paved the way for him to succeed Molefe as CEO.
However, in a statement the Eskom board said Dladla's appointment followed "intense consultations" between Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and itself “to arrive at a prudent choice”.
“Both parties are of firm belief that Dladla’s experience and expertise will stabilise Eskom in the short-term," the statement read.
The appointment follows the resignation of Dr Ben Ngubane as chairperson on June 12, allegedly over disagreements with Brown on who should be appointed acting CEO. However, Ngubane has refuted this claim.
After the reappointment of Molefe was rescinded, Brown requested the board to present her with the names, within 48 hours, of two executives who could play the role of acting CEO. However, the post remain unfilled for over three weeks and it became unclear as to whether any appointment would indeed be made before Eskom’s much-anticipated annual general (AGM), scheduled for Friday, June 23.
Brown has indicated that she intends “rotating” what is already a heavily-depleted board at the AGM and she will be hosting a media briefing after the meeting at 12:00 on Friday.
Meanwhile, Eskom insisted that Dladla had sufficient skills to excel in this role.
“He has 22 years of experience within the Eskom, 17 years invested in various non-regulated businesses and five years as CEO for Eskom Enterprises and its subsidiaries,” acting chairperson Zethembe Khoza said in a statement.
Brown welcomed Dladla’s appointment, arguing that it would “bring further stability to Eskom and its executive team”.
Besides working at the utility, Dladla also had stints at BHP Billiton and South African Breweries. A Chartered Marketer, he has studied across a range of critical fields including finance and accounting at amongst others Harvard Business School, Fort Hare University, Cranfield University (UK), AAA School of Advertising and IMM.
“Dladla is a seasoned business leader with impeccable credentials. His business acumen, which includes his commendable knowledge of Eskom intricacies, will come in handy in his new role. As board, we are looking forward to working with him and his executive team to address the current challenges,” said Khoza.