Eskom withdraws top bosses from costly WEF junket

Eskom has withdrawn its participation at the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2015 event in Davos, Switzerland, it said in a statement on Monday. 

“It is important to note that the chief executive of Eskom Mr Tshediso Matona’s attendance had already been cancelled on January 9 2015 at his own discretion – prior to questions being asked about Eskom’s attendance at Davos. At that time, only the chairperson Mr Zola Tsotsi and the group executive for sustainability, Dr Steve Lennon, were confirmed to go.”

On Friday the Mail & Guardian broke the news that two top leaders and a third executive planned to be in Davos, where they will mingle with the famous and influential at the costly annual WEF meeting.

An internal attendee list for the glitzy and controversial meeting, seen by the  Mail & Guardian, showed that new chief executive Tshediso Matona, chairperson Zola Tsotsi and the group’s sustainability executive Steve Lennon were due to be in Davos. 

During a briefing on the state of the national electricity system last Thursday, Matona stressed that South Africa was in for a bumpy ride as Eskom refocuses on maintenance of its generators – rather than ­keeping the lights on at all costs. 

Companies involved in the WEF meetings – including most of the largest corporate entities in the world – are strictly limited to one attendee each, and typically have to choose between sending their chairperson or chief executive, but exceptions are made for sponsoring partners.

Attendance does not minimise challenges
“We have taken note of the public concern and have withdrawn our participation accordingly. Mr Tsotsi and Dr Lennon will therefore not be attending the meeting in Davos,” Eskom said.

“Both Mr Tsotsi and Dr Lennon have international profiles and are regarded as international experts in their fields and their engagement in international fora does not minimise the importance of the current challenges that Eskom is confronted with,” the utility added.

DA questions Eskom involvement
The Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed Eskom’s cancellation of its participation at WEF.

“Though we welcome the cancellation of the WEF trip, Eskom is now claiming not to be a sponsor of the Davos event when reports state otherwise,” Natasha Michael, DA’s spokesperson on public enterprises, said in a statement on Tuesday. 

“To this end, I will still be submitting parliamentary questions regarding the costs of Eskom’s involvement with the WEF and the costs of any existing sponsorship agreements.” 

She said Eskom required its leadership to be situated firmly in the driver’s seat and not thousands of kilometres away discussing issues that were of no apparent operational or institutional value to Eskom. 

“Attendance of the WEF by the executives would have been complete hypocrisy as Eskom is on the immediate brink of bankruptcy and the nation’s electricity supply is intermittent.” she added. 

The bulk of the South African presence in Davos will be made up of ministers accompanying President Jacob Zuma as part of a government delegation.

“South Africa will use the opportunity to market the country as an attractive and reliable investment destination as well as a development partner, in the context of the national development plan and in celebration of achievements scored since the dawn of freedom in 1994, which brought about a better life for millions more citizens who had been excluded during the period of apartheid colonialism,” the presidency said in a statement last week.

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