Ben Ngubane. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Ben Ngubane. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Ben Ngubane, the chairman of Eskom, has resigned amid management turmoil and probes into its financial dealings, weeks after its chief executive officer was removed.

"Ngubane formally tendered his resignation, which I accepted," minister of public enterprises Lynne Brown said in the statement sent in a text message by spokesman Colin Cruywagen. The chairman cited personal reasons for stepping down, Khulani Qoma, Eskom’s board spokesman, said on Tuesday.

Ngubane steps down from the position amid an investigation of the state company by the treasury, with two other probes planned. Former chief executive officer Brian Molefe resigned from his role last year following a report by the public protector that found the utility had close ties to the Gupta family, who are in business with a son of President Jacob Zuma including a venture to supply coal to Eskom. Molefe returned as CEO on March 15 before Brown removed him on the insistence of the ANC two weeks later. Molefe is challenging his firing.

Brown said she appointed director Zethembe Khoza as interim chairman "until I am able to take new board appointments to the cabinet for approval."

While Ngubane had defended Molefe and praised the company’s management for ending power shortages that had stifled the economy, Pravin Gordhan, who Zuma fired as finance minister in March, accused its directors of abusing state property and resources for their own gain and suggested a forensic audit into decision-making at the utility.

‘Intractable Mess’

Ngubane told lawmakers last month that Molefe’s reappointment by the board as CEO was in the company’s best interests and the board would welcome an inquiry into its conduct. Eskom’s previous acting CEO Matshela Koko went on leave last month pending an investigation of Eskom contracts awarded to a company linked to his stepdaughter.

Its likely due to "the intractable mess of having two CEOs unavailable and no one running the company," Peter Attard Montalto, an economist at Nomura International in London, said of the resignation. "We can only call it a positive if we know the caliber of the person taking over as well as future of the CEO role."

There have been at least seven investigations into alleged maladministration and corruption at Eskom, including the public protector’s report, Brown said last month. Although there have been no prosecutions or convictions, "Eskom’s reputation has been torn to shreds," she said.


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