Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, has come out in defense of controversial Eskom CEO, Brian Molefe whom she says has been subject to vitriol from the public and media.

Brown and the Eskom board appeared before the Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises today to explain why Molefe had boomeranged back to Eskom after leaving for Parliament last year.

“When Eskom’s Board approached me to inform me of its decision to bring Mr Molefe back, I said I would support it on the proviso that it was legal,” Brown said.

“When Mr Molefe quit Eskom in November 2016 I was under the impression that he had resigned. I was not aware that he had applied for early retirement. This I only learned in April 2017, after reading in the media that Mr Molefe was receiving a R30m pay-out from Eskom, and asking Eskom’s Board to make a more prudent deal.”

“On 11th May 2017, after taking advice from a senior council, the Eskom Board reverted to me with options on the proposed R30 million pay-out to Mr Molefe. As a courtesy, the Board indicated to me its preference was for the consensual recission of Mr Molefe’s early retirement, and that it was willing to accept Mr Molefe back as Group Chief Executive,” she went on.

Brown said she believed that Eskom would obtain more value from having Molefe at work than simply paying out R30 million and that she didn’t expect that society would universally welcome news of his return to Eskom following the allegations levelled against him in the Public Protector’s State of Capture report.

She then went on to state that considering Molefe’s “achievements as a technocrat, the fact that he would be under enormous scrutiny, and the presumption of innocence until proven guilty would bring some balance to the debate” about his reappointment.

“But there is a presumption of guilt – despite the Public Protector’s report being taken on review. As a society, as politicians, as media, we must beware of criminalisation by association. Particularly in the absence of anyone having been convicted of a crime…,” she said.

Brown added that there is almost a climate of hostility presently surrounding our state-owned companies that, incidentally, belies their actual performance.

“I am not telling you this to try and make you feel sympathetic towards Brian Molefe, Dr Ngubane or Eskom, but because it is the truth,” she told the committee.

DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, called on Brown to immediately suspend the board of Eskom and hold a a full-scale Parliamentary Inquiry into it after it was made clear that they were instrumental in Molefe’s flip-flop between being an MP and Eskom CEO.

“The Eskom board is hopelessly out of touch with reality, and cannot be trusted to run the company responsible for providing our people and economy with electricity. The Board must be suspended,” Mazzone said.