Phumzile Tshelane. Picture: SUPPLIED
Phumzile Tshelane. Picture: SUPPLIED

Energy minister Jeff Radebe has fired Phumzile Tshelane from his position as CEO and board member of the SA Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa). 

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Radebe said he decided to remove Tshelane after considering “the serious nature of the charges against” him, a board resolution and the recommendation of a disciplinary panel. The axing was effective from May 11 2019, he said.

Tshelane said he was formally notified of his removal on Sunday and on Tuesday launched an appeal against the findings of the disciplinary panel over procedural issues.

In December 2018, the minister announced he had placed Tshelane on precautionary suspension pending an investigation. He also disbanded the entire Necsa board over its failure to discharge its fiduciary duties.

According to the charge sheet, excerpts of which the ministry provided to Business Day, Tshelane had been fired for four transgressions:

• The signing of a nuclear co-operation agreement with Rusatom Healthcare, a subsidiary of Russian nuclear agency Rosatom, despite the minister’s express instructions not to do so;  

• Spending R500,000 on a golf day that put Necsa at risk of not being able to pay some salaries;

• The issuing of a statement on February 15 despite the conditions of his suspension prohibiting him from interacting with or representing Necsa, constituting acts of gross misconduct and insolence against the Necsa board and the energy minister; and

• The extending of a consultancy agreement between Necsa and its board chair, and his monthly retainer was also increased, and constituted a conflict of interest.

Tshelane told Business Day his removal was inappropriate, given that his suspension was being challenged in the high court. It will be heard in June. Tshelane said he was yet to plead his case to the disciplinary panel.  “I feel it was a rush job that shouldn’t have proceeded,” he said.

Radebe previously said that a key reason for removing the Necsa board was the poor governance that had led to Necsa subsidiary, NTP Radioisotopes – which supplies medical isotopes used in the treatment of cancer globally – being shut down for a year over a safety scare. Necsa chair Kelvin Kemm was fired over allegations of gross misconduct. These included his role in the signing of the memorandum with Rusatom Healthcare.

In the court papers filed by Tshelane, Kemm and Pamela Bosman, another fired Necsa board member, they queried the way Radebe removed them, saying it was procedurally unfair and part of a “preordained plan” to remove them.

Former NTP MD Don Robertson was appointed interim CEO on Tshelane’s suspension and Rob Adam, a former Necsa CEO, replaced Kemm as chair.

Radebe said the Necsa board will soon advertise Tshelane’s former board position.

steynl@businesslive.co.za