Brian Molefe’s role as chief executive of Eskom has been brought to an end just weeks after his controversial reappointment following his appearance in a report into government corruption.
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown confirmed that a new CEO will be appointed to the state-owned electricity corporation within 48 hours after Molefe’s surprise recall sparked an intense bout of public infighting within the African National Congress (ANC). The sacking represents the latest embarrassing climbdown for the scandal-hit President Jacob Zuma, who had insisted on the reappointment of his ally despite a public revolt by some members of the ruling party. In Mid-May, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe insisted that the appointment should be rescinded in a rare public rebuke to the President.
Molefe had reportedly resigned from the role in November after he was named in Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s report into “state capture” – a form of political corruption involving the influencing of state decisions by private individuals. The former head of the Public Investment Corporation and Transnet became the highest profile casualty of the report after it revealed that he held 58 calls with Ajay Gupta, a member of a controversial Indian business family, while the Gupta-owned Tegeta Exploration and Resources was attempting to buy the Optimum Coal mine, a supplier to Eskom.
The Guptas have been accused of wielding undue influence over President Zuma and government appointments. Molefe denied any wrongdoing but argued that it would be in the best interests of Eskom to step down. Yet in subsequent weeks both Molefe and Brown had argued that he was merely on ‘unpaid leave’ and thus eligible to return to the utility.
While Molefe’s period in charge of Eskom was dogged by the state capture scandal, he was also credited with stabilising South Africa’s power supply following a series of rolling blackouts throughout 2015.