Analysis

Can We Trust Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Eskom CEO’s Praise Singer?

By Pinky Khoabane

ESKOM’s new chief executive officer (ceo) Andre de Ruyter has clinched the best tool to fight, or protect if you will, the woes of the power utility from scrutiny. In employing Sikonathi Mantshantsha as national spokesman, he has managed to deploy in his corner a long time critic of Eskom but more importantly, his praise singer. 

Mantshantsha, unlike many who were critical of the appointment of de Ruyter as Eskom’s CEO, given his dismal performance at Nampak, showered his now boss with praise. De Ruyter was CEO of Nampak in 2014 under the chairmanship of now Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and during his tenure plunged the company’s share price from a high of 48.85 rand in November 2014 to as low as 6.85 rand a week before his In that time, he pocketed 21.5 million rand of bonuses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. His compensation last year came to 16.5 million rand, including an 8.8 million rand bonus, even as the company’s share price sank 15%”. When all and sundry – with the exception of Minister of Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and President Cyril Ramaphosa – critised this performance, Mantshantsha surprisingly backed the man. And perhaps the explanation lies in this appointment. 

Sikonathi Mantshantsa’s Appointment to Eskom

Answers to questions around Mantshantsha’s deployment to Eskom have been vague. Was he recruited, were the proper channels of appointing him followed?

In an interview on eNCA, the establishment television network by Johann Rupert, Mantshantsha said an opportunity arose for him to be appointed as the spokesperson. The interviewer tried to ascertain whether he had approached the power utility or he was recruited and the details were very vague. The journalist did however confirm he was approached by a recruitment agency and he knew of other people, both in journalism and in the communications sector who applied for the job. He didnt name these people, take your pick “embedded already”? 

By the end of business on 23 January 2020, Eskom had not responded to my enquiry on Mantshantsha’s recruitment. The media department which will now fall under the journalist confirmed their receipt of my enquiry but did not respond to my questions. 

  • What recruitment process was undertaken in appointing Mantshantsha?
  • What Recruitment Agency was used?
  • How many people responded if there was an advertisement published?
  • How many people were interviewed for the job?

I should have asked how much he will be earning. I suspect he was paid a lot of money. Many think his appointment is about silencing a critic of Eskom. Mantshantsha was a critic of certain people in Eskom and not the organisation. He has found a man to whom he can pay allegiance and he will support him and protect him. 

And this leads me to the concern I have about this appointment. 

As a praise singer, will Mantshantsha allow the deterioration of Eskom to come to the fore? Will we know when we are in Stage 6 of blackouts? Will we have clear answers to the kind of corruption by the former Chairman Jabu Mabuza’s company which had billions worth of contracts at Eskom which many are now asking to be probed? In my view this is late. We accepted Mabuza bragging about how he didnt apply for the job or was qualified for it while he and his wife had contracts at Eskom. 

Andre de Ruyter’s Allegedly Dodgy Career 

According to Moneyweb, “Andre de Ruyter, the incoming head of South Africa’s debt-burdened state power utility, engaged in questionable stock sales while working as a senior executive at Sasol in 2013, according to a forensic audit report.

De Ruyter, who was Sasol’s senior group executive for global chemicals and North American operations, together with then-chief financial officer, Christine Ramon, knew about cost overruns at a chemical project and sold the company’s stock before that information was disclosed to other executives, says the report, a copy of which was seen by Bloomberg News. The report formed part of a risk and corporate governance assessment commissioned by the petrochemical conglomerate and undertaken by Werksmans Attorneys, a corporate law firm.

Both executives deny wrongdoing, saying they obtained the necessary authorisation to sell stock and weren’t aware of the Werksmans report. Sasol confirmed that the sales were authorised. The report said, however, that had the information about the overruns been more widely known, approval would not have been given.

“It would appear that the information Mr. Andre de Ruyter and Ms. Christine Ramon had at their disposal was price-sensitive information when they traded their shares,’’ the report found, citing as evidence email communication between the executives and people working on the project over several months. Most of the emails were between De Ruyter and other employees; Ramon was copied on some of them.

De Ruyter left Sasol in October 2013, before the report was submitted, following a career that spanned more than two decades, to become chief executive officer of Nampak, a packaging company”.  

History will judge us harshly for we have all abandoned the true tenets of what our forefathers fought for in our alignment with one faction or another instead of the goodwill of the citizens of this country. 

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