Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan File picture: Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan File picture: Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS

Gordhan’s niece appointed Eskom pension fund trustee

By Time of article published Aug 9, 2020

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Karabo Ngoepe and Mzilikazi Wa Afrika

Johannesburg - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s niece Hasha Tlhotlhalemaje was appointed one of the trustees of the R146 billion Eskom pension and provident fund and allegedly only declared more than a month into the position that the minister was her uncle.

Her father is Gordhan’s elder brother. The niece, whose maiden name is also Gordhan, is the general manager for regulation at Eskom and married to A Tlhotlhalemaje, sources said.

The Sunday Independent can today exclusively reveal that Tlhotlhalemaje was appointed to the fund on May 13 this year and is expected to serve until May 2024.

She is said to have only declared during the fund’s fourth virtual board meeting on July 3 that Gordhan is her uncle.

“Ethically and morally Hasha was supposed to declare her conflict of interest immediately after she received a letter of appointment to the fund and not to surprise all of us months later into the position. Basically, her declaration borders on arrogance and meaning one thing, don’t mess with me, Pravin is my uncle,” said one of the trustee members who was part of the meeting and asked not to be named.

Another fund trustee, who asked not to be named, added: “We were all shocked and confused when she made her declaration on the day. Just imagine if she was Jacob Zuma or Ace Magashule’s niece, it was going to be headline news for days.”

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha admitted that Tlhotlhalemaje was appointed to the Eskom pension fund but insisted her appointment “has got absolutely nothing to do with who she may or may not be related to.”

Gordhan’s spokesperson Sam Mkokeli yesterday said that “the ministry does not get involved in internal Eskom matters”. He added, “If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the company directly.”

Sunday Independent reported last week how Mantuka Maisela was appointed as the chairperson of the fund only to be removed 12 days later without any reasons given. She was replaced by Caroline Henry.

Henry used to serve on the Sun International board along with former Eskom boss Jabu Mabuza. She is also a former Eskom group treasurer who left in December 2015.

Last week, Eskom claimed in their response to Sunday Independent questions that Maisela was removed because she had already served the maximum of 16 years required as the fund board member.

However, this does not seem to be the case, as Maisela took a cooling off period from 2012 to 2016.

In a press statement released last Sunday, Gordhan denied that he revoked Maisela’s appointment. He claimed that “the choice and appointment of the Pension Fund chairperson is entirely the responsibility of Eskom”.

The minister further claimed that the Sunday Independent had been informed by Eskom “that Ms Maisela had served on the Fund’s board for a continuous period of 16 years, a service that far exceeds the recommended period in terms of acceptable governance and protocols”.

The newspaper understands that when Eskom met the president of Black Securities and Investment Professionals and chairperson of the Financial Sector Transformation Council, Polo Leteka-Rabede, this week, the power utility agreed to relook at Maisela’s matter and recalculate the years she had served on the board.

Leteka-Radebe yesterday confirmed that she had a meeting with Eskom.

“We will wait to see how they handle the matter, so we will give that process time and a chance for now,” she said,

Gordhan, in his statement, also added that Henry was interviewed and shortlisted for the position and “became the preferred candidate” after Eskom “ran the process with the help of an external recruitment firm.

“The process culminated in a final shortlist, from which Ms Henry became the preferred candidate. Ms Mantuka Maisela, according to Eskom, had not met the shortlist.”

But Maisela yesterday said that she never submitted her CV to any recruitment agency nor was she interviewed for the position.

Maisela was the chairperson of the fund since July 2016 and it has been a tradition within the fund that its chairperson serves for two terms without being interviewed for such position.

Contrary to Gordhan’s public denial that he didn’t revoke Maisela’s appointment, and he had nothing to do with the appointment of the Eskom pension chairperson, Maisela’s appointment letter signed by Eskom chief finance officer, Calib Cassim, dated May 29, 2020, stated that her “appointment is subject to the Minister of Public Enterprises’ finalisation of the governance process”.

Maisela was then unceremoniously removed as a chairperson after just 12 days without any notice or reasons given.

The Sunday Independent has it on good authority that when Henry called her first fund board meeting where she wanted to introduce herself as the new chairperson, other board members allegedly refused to allow her to chair the meeting and asked one of the members, Ben Steyn, to chair it.

They allegedly locked Henry out of the virtual meeting for more than three hours while demanding reasons for Maisela’s removal.

“When Eskom realised that some of the fund trustees were hostile toward Henry and still loyal to Maisela, they publicly announce that Caroline was the new chairperson of the fund in order to force them to accept her,” said one board members, adding that the matter wasn’t about racism but good governance.

“What they did to Maisela is unethical, unprofessional and shows the new regime’s lack of understanding for good governance, but they go around preaching about good governance and ethics, they do the opposite.

“South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday echoed the member’s sentiment that the new administration was not practising what it preached.

“Every day they preach about fighting corruption and good governance, but they do worse. Nepotism and cronyism are orders of the day. Corruption at Eskom is on the rise and Eskom has become a slaughterhouse for black executives,” he said.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha admitted the post for the pension fund chairperson wasn’t advertised but candidates were “head hunted and there was no advert”.

He said the recruitment agency “provided four shortlisted candidates and the interviews took place on 19 March, 2020. For confidentiality purpose the names cannot be provided.”

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