Sicelo Xulu, the recently appointed CEO of the SA Institute of Electrical Engineers (SAIEE) and former director of the City of Johannesburg’s power utility City Power, has hit back at the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) laundry list of accusations against him.
He in turn accuses the party of mudslinging and “playing like a pig” for political expediency.
This after the DA said in a statement on Monday it had been dismayed by Xulu’s appointment at the helm of the SAIEE, claiming he had been “tainted by serious corruption and mismanagement allegations” during his tenure as the managing director of City Power.
The party’s Gauteng leader, John Moodey, claimed that, during Xulu’s leadership of the utility, governance and management systems were eroded by corruption, leading to service delivery being stifled, and that Xulu was removed from his position at City Power in July 2017 following the conclusion of a forensic report into widespread corruption and mismanagement allegedly costing the public billions.
Moodey claimed this emanated from a multibillion-rand smart meter tender that was awarded to Vivian Reddy’s Edison Power Group, adding that Reddy was “a close ally and friend to [former president] Jacob Zuma”.
Moodey said the weak corporate governance and corruption that had festered at City Power under the leadership of Xulu was highlighted by the alleged gross mismanagement of the Eldorado Park and Hopefield substation contracts, where millions of rands had been paid to a “dodgy contractor”.
The DA leader further alleged that Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba told him that the SAIEE had not contacted the city to verify or request information on the forensic report that made damning findings against Xulu and that a criminal case is being investigated by the Hawks.
Speaking to the Citizen on Wednesday, however, Xulu said he had in fact “disclosed everything to the SAIEE” ahead of his appointment.
In a statement in response to the DA’s claims, SAIEE President Hendri Geldenhuys said: “The SAIEE examined applications for the CEO post without fear or favour, examined the evidence before us and came to the conclusion we did, to appoint Mr Sicelo Xulu as the best person available.”
Geldenhuys said that during its recruitment process for the CEO position, the institute had been aware of media reports on Xulu and his departure from City Power, and they had been aware of “the potential reputational risk to the organisation”.
The institute had access to several reports on the matter which it used when it conducted its “fair and ethical process based on available proven evidence”, Geldenhuys said.
Among the documents the institute used in this process was a certificate of good service signed by current board chair Lael Bethlehem and dated September 28, 2017, issued to Xulu, Geldenhuys added.
A copy of the certificate states that the reasons for Xulu’s departure from the utility arose from the termination “as a consequence of the expiry of the five-year fixed term contract”.
“The SAIEE has requested a meeting with the DA leadership to clarify the issues raised,” Geldenhuys said.
Persons with “proven and tested” information about any of its members and officials were urged by Geldenhuys to approach the institute.
Xulu said Mashaba was hearing “voices in his head” about him and that the Johannesburg mayor had ignored previous reports that exonerated the former City Power managing director in any wrongdoing alleged by the DA.
These reports included a City of Johannesburg investigation into allegations of irregularities pertaining to the upgrades of the Eldorado Park and Hopefield Substations (City Power) dated September 8, 2017, compiled by Grant Thornton.
This report recommended disciplinary action should be taken against senior management within the utility, but without Xulu being mentioned.
Another report was compiled by audit firm SizweNtsalubaGobodo and also did not make recommendations against Xulu.
Xulu produced an Auditor-General (AG) final management report for City Power dated June 30, 2016, to highlight that from 2013 to 2016 the AG’s audit outcomes for the utility had been unqualified with findings and that with regards to assurance levels the AG found Xulu had provided assurance.
The AG report further scored the utility well in supply chain management and financial health, which Xulu said was evidence he had not had a corrupt hand in awarding tenders, as alleged by the DA.
He said that following media reports on alleged corruption in the awarding of the tender to supply, install and commission smart meters, the board at the time sourced the services of highly respected senior counsels to investigate the allegations.
The senior counsels could not find any evidence of irregularity in the awarding of the contract to Reddy’s Edison Power Group, Xulu added.
The former managing director of City Power further pointed to a memorandum to the utility’s employees dated November 8, 2016, by the then member of the mayoral committee for environment and infrastructure services for the city, Anthony Still, a DA member, Xulu added.
In the memorandum, Still stated that after receiving numerous allegations against Xulu, which included undue interference in procurement decisions, Still subjected the allegations to “rigorous interrogation … by independent professionals”.
“In every case, City Power and Mr Sicelo Xulu have been exonerated of any wrongdoing,” Still said in the memorandum.
The former MMC further asserted he was “satisfied with the professionalism of the investigations” and Xulu’s integrity.
“I will only be persuaded from this view by hard evidence to the contrary. This has not been forthcoming. City Power can ill afford to be continually distracted by baseless allegations,” Still said in the memorandum.
Xulu said the memorandum had led to Mashaba axing Still from his position.
Xulu further unreservedly denied claims by the DA that he is related to former president Jacob Zuma, saying it was saddening how low the party was willing to stoop to tarnish his name.
He accused the party of seeking to destroy his reputation for political expediency.
The accusations levelled against him had caused him immense pain and anguish, he said and damaged his reputation and integrity, which made the matter personal.
He questioned why he had had to seek legal assistance to obtain the SizweNtsalubaGobodo report from the city and why the claim that the Hawks were investigating him had never gained any traction.
Xulu said he had engaged his legal team who were now drafting papers to sue the DA for defamation.
“I really want to put an end to this thing, it has ruined my life,” Xulu said.
Attempts to contact Mashaba’s spokesperson were unsuccessful, as Luyanda Mfaku’s cellphone went to voicemail and the office landline was unanswered. This story will be updated in the event the mayor does respond.