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‘He overreacted’: Shilowa weighs in on heated exchanged between Eskom director and Scopa chair

Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa says the public enterprises department should be held accountable for its role in Eskom’s problems. File photo.
Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa says the public enterprises department should be held accountable for its role in Eskom’s problems. File photo.
Image: Adam Davy/PA Images via Getty Images

Former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa is the latest to weigh in on the tense parliamentary briefing that saw Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso walkout, saying it could have been handled differently. 

Last week Mavuso was told to leave a meeting with the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) after she said it was the ANC-led government’s failures that caused damage at Eskom over the years.

She claimed she was defending an insinuation about Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter’s performance being the reason for the power utility’s failures.

During the meeting Mavuso said the board should be held accountable for the decisions made during their tenure, but could not answer for matters that predate the board. She said De Ruyter and the board would not be the “fall guy” for the mess the power utility is currently experiencing.

 

Speaking to CapeTalk, Shilowa said Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa overreacted when he told Mavuso to leave the meeting.

He said Mavuso could have used a different tone, “but there was no need for her to have been asked to leave”.

“Could she have handled the matter differently? Not in terms of raising the issues, but I don’t think she should have offered to leave. She should have stayed there and, if asked, she could explain where she’s coming from,” said Shilowa. 

Shilowa said he was not defending Mavuso but pointing out that Hlengwa was wrong. 

According to Shilowa, the bigger mess lies with the public enterprises department and it should be held accountable for its role in Eskom’s problems.

“The thing for me that I find hypocritical is the department saying she was unprofessional and all that. This is a department whose minister has not done an interview regarding Eskom for more than a year, who is not willing to be held accountable by the media on behalf of the public on this matter. So it is a bigger mess that needs to be sorted out,” he said. 

Speaking on 702, Mavuso said the committee should not ask questions if it was not prepared to hear the answers. 

“There is no way I can answer about Medupi and Khusile without referring to the history, so don’t ask questions for which you are not prepared to hear answers.

“To now claim I came to the meeting with a prepared speech is absolutely ludicrous because I merely answered a question that he [Hlengwa] put to the board. Because you do not like the answer to the question, do not give me an ultimatum,” she said

Mavuso said she felt disrespected and would not be spoken to like a “naughty 12-year-old schoolgirl”. 

“I am not going to be told to behave as if I am a naughty 12-year-old schoolgirl. I don’t even talk to my 10-year-old son in that manner,” she said. 

In his defence, Hlengwa said he was not going to engage in a public spat with Mavuso as he had a responsibility to parliament to ensure accountability was upheld.  

“Some of us in our political capacities agree with her that this is an ANC mess. That is not in dispute. She raised the right issue in the wrong meeting with the wrong people. We were not there on a political expedition,” Hlengwa said.

 

DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said parliament should suspend Hlengwa and National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula should conduct an urgent investigation into his conduct. 

Mazzone listed actions the DA wants parliament to take to solve the matter; 

  • parliament to apologise to Mavuso for being thrown out of a meeting where she was asked to give an honest opinion;
  • Hlengwa to be reported to the powers and privileges committee for a full investigation into his behaviour towards Mavuso;
  • the National Assembly chairperson responsible for oversight, Cedric Frolick, to investigate whether any meeting occurred between Hlengwa and any ANC member before Friday’s Scopa meeting, and;
  • Hlengwa to publicly apologise during the next sitting of parliament for his actions against Mavuso.

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