Public enterprises minister Lynne Brown announced Ngubane’s resignation‚ with immediate effect‚ late on Monday.
Ngubane’s departure from Eskom comes as parliament prepares to launch an inquiry into the affairs of the state-owned enterprise‚ while the DA has also called for a broader parliamentary probe into state capture.
Natasha Mazzone‚ the DA’s shadow minister of public enterprises‚ said Ngubane still had a lot to answer for.
“The Democratic Alliance has noted the late-night resignation of Eskom Board Chair‚ Ben Ngubane‚ hot on the heels of damning revelations of the capture of Eskom leadership by the Guptas‚ and the breakdown of corporate governance at Eskom‚” Mazzone said in a statement.
“Mr Ngubane‚ who presided over the retrenchment/retirement/rehire of Brian Molefe as Eskom CEO has much to answer for‚ not least of which includes Molefe’s R30 million ‘golden handshake’ deal and an avalanche of accusations that the Guptas have milked Eskom over many years.”
Eskom board spokesman Khulani Qoma told television news channel eNCA that the resignation had come as a surprise. “It was for personal reasons‚” he told radio 702 on Tuesday.
Zethembe Khoza has been appointed as interim chairperson until Brown is able to gain cabinet approval for new board appointments.
Brown had said earlier that the future of the Eskom board would be decided at its annual general meeting later this month following a decision to axe Molefe as CEO after his unexpected return.
Ngubane and Molefe have been accused of playing a key role in smoothing the way for the controversial Gupta family to gain billions of rands in business from the power utility.
Ngubane’s exit also coincides with reports that the Hawks are close to wrapping up some of their investigations into state capture following a cache of leaked emails revealing the Guptas’ influence in government circles.
Eskom in particular has featured prominently in the allegations‚ even though Ngubane has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Among the allegations made against Ngubane was a claim by former mineral resources minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi‚ who accused Ngubane and Molefe of trying to push mining giant Glencore out of business so that the Gupta family could buy the Optimum coal mine from them.
Ngubane’s role in the deterioration of another state enterprise also came under scrutiny in recent months as parliament tackled the malaise at the SABC.
His resignation from the Eskom board came on the same day that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was officially fired from the SABC‚ after a disciplinary hearing.
TimesLIVE reported in January that Ngubane – former board chair at the SABC – had defended Motsoeneng’s track record at the state broadcaster.
Ngubane‚ speaking before parliament’s ad hoc committee looking into the mess at the broadcaster‚ claimed that Motsoeneng had “saved” the SABC.
Asked how Motsoeneng came to occupy senior positions at the SABC given that he did not have matric‚ Ngubane said the former chief operating officer was appointed because of his skills.
Ngubane‚ a former KwaZulu-Natal premier and national arts and culture minister‚ chaired the SABC board from December 2009 until he resigned amid controversy in March 2013.