Analysis

Why Jabu Mabuza When There Are More Qualified Board Members To Fill Position of Interim CEO

By Pinky Khoabane

BUOYED by his victory in the case against Public Protector Busisiwe Mkwebane, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced that Jabu Mabuza, who until yesterday was Eskom’s Chairperson, would take the reigns at Eskom while the power utility looked for a replacement for Phakamani Hadebe whose resignation comes into effect on Thursday. 

Mabuza has been appointed as Interim Executive Chairman, acting CEO of Eskom Holdings, and acting Group CEO of Eskom. 

What is a glaring flouting of corporate governance – where there is no separation in the roles of the chairman and ceo – Gordhan has managed to once again, as he has done since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration, violate rules. In his campaign to “clean SOES”, he has ignored court orders ordering state owned enterprises to reinstate employees whose contracts were unlawfully terminated. This was the case at Eskom and Transnet. 

It’s not as if Mabuza’s appointment was not already mired in controversy over a conflict of interest that existed as a chairman of Eskom while his company also held the third largest contract that does maintenance on the utility’s boilers. His confession at the State Capture Commission that he held shares in a company that provides maintenance to Eskom and that his wife owned shares in a coal mining company should have in the first instance, disqualified him as a chairman of Eskom. But he’s one of those lucky chaps who, as he explained to the State Capture Commission, wasnt aware of his possible appointment and that once appointed, he found himself heading a board he had no input in assembling. 

Prior to Mabuza’s appointment as chairman, there had been speculation that Nhlanhla Nene, who was fired by former President Jacob Zuma as finance minister, would be the chairman. Nene was appointed finance minister in Ramaphosa’s administration and later resigned under a cloud for his memory loss over visits he had made to the Gupta home and an alleged deal his son facilitated from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) while he (Nhlanhla) was its chairman. 

The silence of the media in the face of Gordhan’s violation of corporate governance is a reflection of all that is wrong with a dominant media. Where others would have been castigated for this conduct, Gordhan, who has a lot of journalists on his side, is allowed free reign in the name of “cleaning” SOEs. Those who dare question this conduct are labeled as “state capturers” and critics are quickly branded as part of a “fight back” campaign, a narrative he has coined and successfully peddled in the media.

While it is understandable that Eskom was not able to fill the position of CEO before Hadebe’s departure, the question that must be asked is why appoint the chairman in the role of ceo instead of choosing one of the other board members – who it must be said have better knowledge of the energy industry than Mabuza. 

Sifiso Dabengwa, for example, is no stranger to Eskom having worked there before heading MTN as its ceo. 

Nelisiwe Magubane is an engineer and started her career at Eskom. She has a wealth of experience in the energy and electricity business. She joined the department of minerals and energy as the chief director responsible for the restructuring of the electricity sector, planning and implementation of the electrification programme. She was later appointed as a deputy director general responsible for the development of the policies that govern electricity, nuclear and clean energy in South Africa. She was appointed as Director General of Energy in December 2009.

And so, given the current board members the question must be asked why Mabuza would be the chosen one. In the last few weeks, we have come to learn that Dabengwa was part of Ramaphosa’s presidential campaign, donating R500,000 no less, and raising millions of rands for the President. And yet he didn’t crack the nod. 

Insiders say it is the usual factions in the ANC at play. Yes, even within the CR faction there are factions. But the answer may come from a revelation billionaire businessman Johann Rupert made during a bizarre conversation, littered with racist utterances, which he had with PowerFM’s Given Mkhari. “I have a friend‚ [Eskom chairperson] Jabu Mabuza. We go back long ago…”.

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