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

Energy minister Jeff Radebe says his decision to disband the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) board was not rash but followed a litany of governance issues at the state-owned entity, court papers show.

In an affidavit signed on January 4, Radebe detailed how four memos, dating back to June 2018, alerted him to serious issues relating to the Necsa CEO, the board and its chair. These informed his decision to replace the Necsa board in early December.

Radebe’s submission sets out a raft of allegations.

For one, the Necsa board has been remunerating itself “at rates that are far in excess of the approved rate” and in a draft annual report it had also failed to declare bonuses and the CEO’s remuneration for the year, according to his affidavit. The board also appointed external experts to committees without consulting the minister, and outsourced the function of company secretary which in effect granted third parties access to “top secret state information”.

Radebe's affidavit is in response to an urgent application brought by  ousted chair Kelvin Kemm, suspended CEO Phumzile Tshelane and fired director Pamela Bosman, for their removal to be set aside.

The three applicants claimed their ousting was procedurally unfair and that the opportunity the minister extended to them to respond to various allegations was not genuine.

Radebe, however, said his decision was not taken lightly, but rather “after considering all the relevant facts before me and also seeking legal guidance and opinion from all relevant structures”.

Although Radebe has blamed the entire Necsa board for failing to remedy a prolonged shutdown of its subsidiary, NTP Radioisotopes, he singled out the role of Tshelane in his submission.

NTP produces medical radioisotopes used in the treatment of cancer,  but has been plagued with closures over safety issues for  more than a year.

The first stoppage occurred in November 2017. Tshelane intervened in what Radebe claimed was a “highly irregular” manner to reverse the suspensions of personnel responsible for operational safety violations and instead suspended various senior managers. Under the new management, a second safety violation incident took place in March 2018. “[Theslane’s] unilateral actions caused harm to the NTP rather than remedying the situation,” Radebe said.

Regarding Kemm, Radebe said the Necsa chair had penned an opinion piece that tarnished the image of the National Nuclear Regulator, another state entity. But in the founding affidavit, Kemm argued the article was not disparaging and afforded the regulator “valuable exposure”.

Another allegation against the chair is that he signed a memorandum of understanding with Rusatom Healthcare against the minister's explicit instruction not to.

Kemm’s account is that he was only advised of the minister’s view on the morning of the signing and he chose to go ahead to avoid political embarrassment.

Radebe also said a report from the SOE Oversight Unit highlighted that Kemm was doing business with Necsa — “a clear matter of conflicting interest”. Kemm disputed this allegation.

Bosman was meanwhile the main subject of one of the memos Radebe received on July 17. On June 12, a judgment by the Eastern Cape High Court effectively disqualified her from serving on the board of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation where she was accused of planning to unlawfully benefit as a subcontractor to the corporation. Radebe said the debacle was damaging to the image of Necsa and the department, but the board had taken no steps to remove her.

Kemm, however, argued the board could not remove Bosman as her application to appeal the matter at the Supreme Court of Appeal was still pending.

steynl@businesslive.co.za