Eskom mantashe necsa

Image via: ‘Archive Photo’

Report: Necsa board resigns, places blame squarely on Mantashe

Gwede Mantashe claims he has not received any resignation from Necsa board members.

Eskom mantashe necsa

Image via: ‘Archive Photo’

Reports have surfaced suggesting that South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) board members have issued a collective resignation notice to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe.

According to Chirs Yelland, a well-renowned energy expert and Managing Director at EE Business Intelligence, the entire Necsa board has opted out of a ‘dysfunctional’ relationship with Mantashe “due to his apparent unwillingness to address the deep financial problems facing Necsa”.

Why is Necsa in a deep financial crisis?

Necsa is a state-owned entity that has been brought to its knees by rampant financial mismanagement and maladministration. Established as a public company in 1999, Necsa’s mandate — according to the Nuclear Energy Act — is to:

  • promote research and development in the field of nuclear energy;
  • process and store nuclear material and other restricted material; and
  • co-ordinate with other organisations in matters falling within these spheres

While South Africa abandoned its nuclear ambitions at the turn of democracy, it is one of the fewest countries that is still able to generate nuclear power.

A fundamental part of Necsa’s operations is the exportation of radioisotopes that are used in medicine (cancer treatments). However, the organisation has been floundering in its attempt to remain financially solvent.

In late 2019, Necsa could barely afford to pay workers’ salaries. In a document compiled by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), the nuclear corporation’s failure was pinned on former Energy Minister, Jeff Radebe, who had handpicked the board.

“Since they came in – in December – Necsa’s cash flow problem has been becoming worse,” Nehawu branch chairperson at Necsa, Zolani Masoleng, noted in a 2019 IOL News article

The document added the state parastatal needed an urgent injection of R500-million to remain solvent. This request, however, was never honoured by Cabinet.

Nonchalant Mantashe shrugs off reported board resignation

This, Yelland noted, and other key reasons implicating Mantashe, is the reason behind the mass resignations at the nuclear organisation.

However, Mantashe, who was at the Bonginsimbi Comprehensive School, in Witbank, for a briefing session, told reporters that he knew nothing about these resignations.

He did state, though, that if this was true, he was not going to stand in their way. Either way, he added, the Ministry of Energy was in the process of reconfiguring the board, with prospective members identified on Tuesday.

“What we are doing in this department is to resuscitate governance and entities in the department, which [have] collapsed… So we are rebuilding it, and we are not rushing… we are not angry with anyone… we are quite steady and move step by step to rebuild governance in the department,” he said.

‘Energy Minister must be held accountable’ – DA

The Democratic Alliance (DA), in a statement, criticised Mantashe for the way in which he has handled these shocking resignations.

The party’s Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Kevin Mileham, noted that the DA will write to Sahlulele Luzipo, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy, “to request that Minister Mantashe appear before the Committee as soon as Parliament resumes business for 2020”.

“Mantashe has provided a callous initial reaction to these resignations, as is evident by his comments on social media, indicating that he will just “replenish the Board of NECSA”. This is yet another clear-cut indication that Mantashe is wholly unfit to fulfill the needs and demands of the position he holds.

“There is no doubt that he has zero control over the entities he is meant to govern. Mantashe remains led by the nose by unions, instead of ensuring that our energy sector is able to run in a functional manner,” Mileham said.