/ 25 March 2015

Eskom’s Matone to CCMA over ‘unfair suspension’

Suspended Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona.
Suspended Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona.

Eskom’s chief executive Tshediso Matona has approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over unfair suspension, the dispute resolution body said on Wednesday.

“The CCMA can confirm that a referral was received on the 23 March 2015 from Mr Tshediso Matona relating to unfair suspension,” it said in a statement. The matter would be set down for conciliation and all parties would be notified, it said.

Business Day reported that four senior executives, including Matona, were suspended a week after they had initiated an audit into Eskom’s tender processes. Eskom media desk confirmed that it had received a notice from Matona that he would challenge his suspension in the Labour Court.

It was responding to questions on a report that the four executives, suspended earlier this month, were not suspended because they initiated an audit of the parastatal’s tender processes. “No, the chairman was quite clear at the media briefing two weeks ago in explaining the suspensions took place so that an independent inquiry into the business could be commissioned,” the media desk said.

On March 12, board chairman Zola Tsotsi said that four senior Eskom executives were asked to step aside as the power utility embarked on a fact-finding inquiry. The other three are finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital executive Dan Morokane and commercial and technology executive Matshela Koko. Tsotsi said they were asked to step down in the interest of achieving results.

On Wednesday, Business Day reported that at the beginning of March Eskom published a notice on its website asking for a panel of audit firms to submit tenders for a review of its tendering processes for transactions more than R300-million. In recent months, Eskom has battled to keep the lights on since the collapse of one of its coal storage silos, diesel shortages, and maintenance issues.

Non-executive board member Zethembe Khoza would assume the position of interim chief executive, while non-executive board members who would support Khoza were Nonkululeko Veleti in finance, Abram Masango in group capital, and Edwin Mabelane in commercial and technology.

Tsotsi not removed
Eskom board chairman Zola Tsotsi has not been removed, the power utility said on Wednesday.

Responding to a question on why he did not step down, Tsotsi said: “I wish I had the time for us to sit down and really talk about this… There is nothing as misunderstood as the issue of where this company is today and where it comes from.”

He reiterated that Eskom was not in a crisis.

In recent months, Eskom has battled to keep the lights on since the collapse of one of its coal storage silos, diesel shortages, and maintenance issues.

‘Not squabbles’
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday cast the probe into Eskom’s top management as a bid by Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown to find the faultlines in the running of the utility.

“These are not squabbles… they were requested to be on leave of absence, so that an inquiry, an investigation can ensue and she was particularly concerned about the quality of information that was coming through and issues she regarded as being pertinent to addressing the challenges that Eskom is facing,” Ramaphosa told the National Council of Provinces.

“Now that inquiry should be commencing soon and it really is about getting information into her hands to that she can better assess precisely how Eskom is going to go about addressing all these issues.”

Earlier, Brown told parliament’s public enterprises portfolio committee she was “very worried” about the cost of load shedding to the economy and about management at Eskom. Answering questions from opposition MPs, Ramaphosa said the inquiry announced a fortnight ago by Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi was not politically motivated.

“There is no political expediency about it, including the issue now of governance. The issue of governance is clearly a concern to us as government at the Eskom level and we are certain that the minister of public enterprises working together with the board will be addressing the issue of leadership,” Ramaphosa said in response to questions from MPs.

“Soon we will have answers and solutions to the challenges of leadership,” he added. He said in the meanwhile the so-called war room he heads was trying to find practical solutions to the crisis experienced by Eskom. “The issue of immediate interventions that need to be taken, that continues.”

Ramaphosa said the immediate measures being looked at by the war room were ways to improve Eskom’s maintenance services, ensuring that municipalities paid their outstanding debt to the utility and paving the way for fuel-switching from diesel to gas.

“Plans are being developed to convert Eskom’s existing diesel-power open-cycle turbines to gas. Under consideration is the import of gas from a number of sources, and in this case specifically from our neighbour Mozambique which has gas in abundance.”

Ramaphosa added that Cabinet would soon make an announcement about initiatives to reduce commercial demand while Eskom battles with supply constraints. “We are engaging with business organisations to reduce and better manage demand,” he said. Working together with Eskom and other stakeholders we are definitively taking decisive action now to reduce the need for load shedding … This is work in progress.” – Sapa