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Eskom executives asked to 'step aside' for inquiry

Four executives including the CEO have been asked to step aside as an inquiry takes place.

Eskom's chairperson Zola Tsotsi (L) with board members Zethemba Khoza and Veletie Klein at the special media briefing on 12 March 2015. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom have this morning announced that four of its executives have been asked to step aside as a fact finding inquiry takes place.

The four include Chief Executive Officer Tshediso Matona, Head of Capital Projects Dan Marokane, Technology and Commercial Executive Matshela Koko and Finance Director Tsholofelo Molefe.

The announcement was made by Eskom's chairperson Zola Tsotsi at a special media briefing in Johannesburg.

Tsotsi said the announcement comes on the back of a special board meeting yesterday.

"This was done in the best interests of our stakeholders," Tsotsi told the media.

Tsotsi said the executives have been asked to step aside, but clarification is still needed over whether these are suspensions.

"The inquiry will look into poor generation capacity, cash flow issues and other problems."

He added there is no intent or suspicion of wrongdoing and executives have been asked to step to ensure the inquiry happens without any influence.

"It's a suspension only in a way that the inquiry can happen without any influence. There is no sinister or hidden agenda by the board. We set up to proceed with the inquiry & get it going."

The chairperson said this will be a fact finding inquiry.

"If in the process of the inquiry wrongdoing is found, then it will be attended to."

Tsotsi said the inquiry is expected to last no longer than three months.

DOGGED BY CRISIS

Over the past few months, Eskom has struggled to keep the lights on.

From technical difficulties at power plants to silos collapsing, the power utility has seen its fair share of difficulties.

Eskom has battled to provide uninterrupted power supply for months due to problems with its aging infrastructure.

Standing on a financially-crippled leg, Eskom along with Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown last week said it'll take at least 18 months before South Africa's electricity network is more stable.

"I'm quite pleased actually that we can see some kind of progress. It doesn't matter how much talk we have, if we're not bringing on new energy it doesn't matter."

Brown said Eskom now needs to move quickly from diesel to gas in order to power generators.

She says while good progress has been made, it doesn't mean load shedding will stop.

MEDUPI

Four years after its scheduled date, the Medupi Power Station delivered its first unit of electricity.

On Monday 2 March, Medupi's Unit 6 synchronised with the grid for the first time.

The power plant has been dogged by controversy ranging from missed deadlines, contractual problems and violent protests.

Just two months ago, Eskom promised that one unit would go online in the middle of this year after it had missed yet another deadline in December.

The parastatal also made more promises that Medupi's Unit 6's full potential of 794 megawatts would come online with the national grid within the next three months.

Eskom also announced that it had appointed a power station manager together with around 350 staff at the Limpopo-based power station.

R23 BILLION CASH INJECTION

During his budget speech last month, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene revealed that plans to find the R23 billion cash injection which Eskom needs are well-advanced.

Nene said the money would be raised by the sale of what treasury is calling "non-core state assets" and the amounts would be paid in installments.

The first R10 billion is set to be paid in June and the remaining R13 billion, sometime before the end of the year.

Nene also announced that higher electricity costs were on the cards.

"To stabilise its financial position, Eskom will apply to the regulator this year for adjustments towards cost reflective tariffs.

RETRENCHMENTS

Yesterday, trade union Solidarity said if Eskom was serious about reaching its "race targets" it meant up to 3,400 white employees would lose their jobs.

This is reportedly part of a plan to reflect the national demographic by 2020.

In weekend reports, labour analyst Jan de Lange reflected this saying over 1,000 white engineers may lose their jobs as a result.

Eskom has denied job cuts, saying all skills were needed at the moment.

Solidarity's Piet le Roux said in terms of the electricity crisis, race shouldn't be a factor at the moment.

"It's absurd to suggest as they did in their latest employment equity plans that they have 3,400 white employees too many. If Eskom is serious that it wants to achieve these targets, then it is serious that it regards race as more important than keeping the lights on."

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