Jeff Radebe. Picture: GCIS
Jeff Radebe. Picture: GCIS

Energy minister Jeff Radebe removed the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) board this week after “continued ineptitude and deliberate acts of defiance” which caused various setbacks and losses at the organisation.

Briefing the media on Friday, Radebe said one such act of defiance was when Necsa board members signed a “so-called” memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Rusatom Healthcare (a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom nuclear corporation) after they were expressly instructed not to do so.

Key to the decision to remove the Necsa board was that poor governance had led to issues at Necsa and subsidiaries, in particular NTP Radioisotopes. This subsidiary produces medical isotopes used in the treatment of cancer globally, but only recently started production after a year-long shutdown over a safety scare.

Defiance from some members of the board affected the efficacy of the entire board “thereby seriously compromising its ability to collectively discharge its fiduciary duty”, Radebe said.

On Thursday the government replaced the Necsa board.  The corporation’s former CEO, Rob Adam, replaced Kelvin Kemm as chair. 

The new members of the board are Ramatsemela Masango, Aadil Patel, Bishen Singh, Pulane Kingston, Matlhodi Ngwenya, Jabulani Ndlovu and Pulane Molokwane.

CEO Phumzile Tshelane has been placed on precautionary suspension pending an investigation.

On Friday, Radebe announced former managing director of NTP, Don Robertson, would act as interim CEO.

The DA’s energy spokesperson Gwen Ngwenya said in a statement on Thursday the party was concerned the board’s removal had not been done on valid grounds.

“In particular, the minister needs to answer whether there is a deal with a foreign company involving Necsa/NTP Radioisotopes, from which the minister stands to financially benefit — or from which he has already benefited,” Ngwenya said.

Radebe said on Friday that such allegations were “balderdash”.

The minister said serious governance matters relating to the former board also included: repetitive instance of legislative non-compliance; non-adherence to specific shareholder instructions and directives; financial mismanagement; remuneration irregularities; unauthorised international travel and issuance of misleading, inaccurate and/or defamatory media statements.

Additionally, “numerous irregularities had also been raised by the auditor-general of SA during the 2017-18 audit process, which to date remains incomplete and compromises the financial integrity of the organisation”, Radebe said.

Deputy minister Thembisile Majola, who was delegated to conduct oversight on the work of NTP, said the subsidiary’s isotopes were used globally, and customers were expressing serious concern about the stopped production.

New chair Rob Adam expressed gratitude to the minister for “stepping in in a very decisive way to rescue a wonderful national asset”. 

“With this team I’m confident we will be able to fix a key national entity,” he said.

Douglas Molepo, an attorney at ENS Africa who is representing Kemm, Tshelane as well as ousted board member Pamela Bosman, said he was preparing to launch an urgent application to set aside the minister’s decision to disband the board.

“We don’t think the minister has applied his mind to the removal of the 11 board members, and violated their right to be heard,” Molepo said.

The minister asked the board to provide reasons they should not be removed.

“He received the representations on Monday at 1.30pm, by 2pm he had removed them,” said Molepo.

“The following day he appointed the new board. When did he have time to consider their appointments?”