– Additional reporting African News Agency (ANA)
Eskom board chair Ben Ngubane on Tuesday described claims made against him and Eskom CEO Brian Molefe relating to the sale of Optimum mine as “impossible” and “preposterous”.
Speaking on the sidelines at the opening of African Utility Week in the Cape, Ngubane dismissed damning allegations by former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi that the pair had attempted to force him to suspend the mining licences of coal supplier Glencore.
This was allegedly being done in order to favour the controversial Gupta family and its coal business, according to a report by EWN and investigative journalism centre amaBhungane. The family was trying to buy the Optimum coalmine from Glencore, and Eskom was putting the squeeze on Glencore at the time.
Ngubane said the allegations were false, TimesLIVE reported.
“He thinks something that’s impossible. We can’t instruct a minister what to do. We take our problems to the minister, [and] we ask for help. For the minister to claim that we made him take a decision about something is preposterous,” he was quoted as saying.
Molefe was a no-show at the energy conference despite being a keynote speaker at the event. The conference was to be one of his first public appearances since the Eskom board announced late last week that he was returning to his job as chief executive.
He resigned from the power utility in November last year under a cloud after he was fingered in the public protector’s state of capture report over an alleged improper relationship with the Guptas, who were at the time angling for business with Eskom.
Ngubane told journalists he tried to talk Molefe out of leaving Eskom in the wake of the report’s release, but he chose to take early retirement.
“After the public protector report, he decided to exercise his early retirement option. I [tried to] persuade him that it would be disastrous for the company. [But the] board accepted it,” he said.
On the ANC’s call for Public Enterprise Minister Lynne Brown to dissolve Eskom’s board following Molefe’s controversial reinstatement, Ngubane said that was “their opinion”, adding that the utility’s board was there to “serve at the government’s pleasure”.