Jabu Mabuza. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE
Jabu Mabuza. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK-MERE

The new Eskom board chairman Jabu Mabuza says he was humbled to receive a call asking if he would be willing to take on the job as head of the power utility’s board but it is not a task he accepted lightly.

Mabuza‚ who has been credited with the strong turnaround of Telkom in recent years‚ said on Saturday after the announcement that there was a general consensus across society that work needed to be done in terms of turning the South African economy around. Eskom was a key part of the economy‚ he said.

“I was quite humbled when I was asked to participate to find a solution in leading Eskom‚” Mabuza said.

“Eskom is a part of our daily lives and any problem that affects Eskom‚ affects every one of us. I accepted‚ but not lightly. I understand that this is a very‚ very big challenge – bigger than anything I have ever been involved in.”

Mabuza said he would continue to serve as chairman of Telkom.

“I am still chairman of Telkom. Telkom has a great board‚ a great management and the strategies are clear‚ the business plan is clear and we’ve got a strong balance sheet. We are dealing with some issues‚ but I have no doubt in my mind that Telkom will continue to do well.

“But I do recognise that a good board is just one of the most important things to try and address the issues of governance and leadership. But outside of that we need financial and business discipline; we do need a competent management. The right people at the right places‚ doing the right things‚” he said.

Mabuza said he has “always been willing to do that which I have to do in the national interest” when asked if he considered the task of clearing up the corruption at Eskom daunting.

In a statement released on Saturday afternoon it was announced that the appointments were a measure to strengthen governance at Eskom and stabilise management at the parastatal.

Mabuza has been credited with the turnaround of Telkom‚ which in 2012 was floundering financially‚ together with CEO Sipho Maseko.

A high-level meeting was held on Friday night attended by President Jacob Zuma‚ Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa‚ Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown and Minister of Finance Malusi Gigaba "to address urgent challenges at the company".

"This intervention will be ratified by Cabinet at its next meeting‚" the statement read.

Other appointments include that of Phakamani Hadebe as the acting group chief executive with immediate effect and the new board has been given three months to appoint a permanent group CEO and group chief financial officer. The board has also been directed to "immediately remove all Eskom executives who are facing allegations of serious corruption and other acts of impropriety".

This includes recently reinstated head of group capital Matshela Koko and suspended CFO Anoj Singh.

"Eskom is critical to the South African economy. As a key enabler of economic growth and social transformation‚ any further deterioration of Eskom’s financial and operational conditions could have a severe impact on the country‚" the statement continues.

"The company has been facing several challenges‚ including a weak financial position‚ declining revenues and governance failures‚ which are threatening the sustainability of the company going forward.

"This is the first step towards restoring confidence in the company‚ improving its financial position and restoring its operational performance."

The new board will consist of:

Jabu Mabuza as chairman
Sifiso Dabengwa
Sindi Mabaso-Koyana
Mark Lamberti
Prof Tshepo Mongalo
Prof Malegapuru Makgoba
Busisiwe Mavuso
Nelisiwe Magubane
Dr Rod Crompton
George Sebulela
Dr Pulane Molokwane
Dr Banothile Makhubela
Jacky Molisane

“We are confident this intervention will restore the important contribution Eskom makes to our economy. We are determined to address the damage that has been done to this institution and place it on a new path of efficiency and integrity‚" said Ramaphosa in his capacity as chair of the inter-ministerial committee on SOE reform.

“Government calls on all stakeholders‚ employees‚ suppliers and members of the public to work together to ensure that these measures are successful.

“For SA to flourish‚ Eskom must work and work well‚” he said.

Brown and Gigaba would work together under the leadership of Ramaphosa to deal with other structural issues at Eskom‚ which will include a funding model.

The statement calls on Eskom employees who may have evidence of wrongdoing to bring this to the attention of law enforcement agencies so that culprits can be brought to book.