South Africa protests detention of Eskom boss

Wednesday March 14 2012

By Richard Wanambwa

The South African High Commission in Kampala has written a protest note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs complaining about the manner in which the Eskom Managing Director, Nokwanda Mngeni, was “humiliated” by the Ad-hoc committee on Energy.

Ms Mngeni was detained by Parliamentary police for failing to provide answers to the committee

The High Commission, in a letter dated March 6, 2012, says that the four hours she was under detention at Parliament was inhumane and this could this impede efforts by the High Commission to woe investors to Uganda.

“The High Commission of the Republic of South Africa in Kampala presents its compliments to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uganda and has the honor to refer to the appearance by Ms Nokwanda Mngeni, the Managing Director of Eskom Uganda Pty Limited before the Ad-hoc committee on Energy of the Parliament of Uganda on Tuesday February 2012 and Friday March 2, 2012” the note reads in part.

It further reads “The High Commission fully recognizes the right of the Parliament of Uganda to conduct its business in the way it sees fit and in terms of its regulations. However, the intimidation meted out to Ms Mngeni, the unwarranted (under the specific circumstance) “detention” under police guard, threats of “handing” over to CPS”, and demands for police bond before release are regrettable”

The High Commission in the same letter has asked Foreign Affairs Ministry to arrange a meeting between the Speaker of Parliament and the Minister of Energy to address the issue.

“The High Commission further regret to observe that this treatment accorded to a South African national does not support the High Commission’s efforts to encourage increased involvement by South African investors in the Ugandan economy. The High Commission has also been instructed to seek a meeting with the Honorable Speaker of Parliament and with the Honorable Minister of Energy, responsible for Eskom oversight in Uganda, in an effort to discuss if there is anything that needs to be done by Eskom Enterprise or the South African government to address this issue. The High Commission would appreciate the Ministry’s assistance in facilitating such meetings.”

The High Commission says that Ms Mngeni co-operated fully with the Ad-hoc committee by providing responses to all questions posed to her but she was however, asked two questions pertaining to Eskom Enterprises South Africa to which she did not have the information readily available and additionally also had no mandate to answer on behalf of Eskom Enterprise South Africa.

“She responded to the committee as such and conveyed both orally and in writing the willingness of senior management of Eskom Enterprises South Africa to travel to Uganda and provide all information required, following which she was detained for four hours under police guard in terms of Parliamentary regulations and threatened that if the information was not provided within stipulated time that she would be handed to Central Police Station.”

Last week, the week committee detained Energy Permanent Secretary Kabagambe Kaliisa on allegations that he failed to answer legislators’ questions. Mr Kaliisa had appeared to answer questions related to the power tariffs in the electricity sector.

The Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs, James Mugume acknowledged receiving the note but said he had passed it on Parliament for action. He also revealed that his ministry had arranged for a meeting with the Speaker, Energy Ministry and South African representatives to iron out any outstanding differences.

“We have sent the note to the Clerk to the national assembly and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Energy. We have arranged for the meeting between the Speaker, Ministry of Energy and South Africa, they want to discuss this issue” Mr Mugume said.

He added “The High Commissioner told me that there are concerns among the South African community as far as this issue was handled. Ms Mngeni was crying but the MPs seemed to have enjoyed themselves. Ugandans are indeed friendly people and this shouldn’t be eroded, especially in the eyes of investors”

Utilities
The Ad-hoc committee was set up to look into allegations of corruption and misuse of resources. It also examines why power tariffs are allegedly high despite the recommendation by Gen. Salim Saleh that recommended for a reduction in the tariffs in his report. The Ad-hoc committee is also investigating subsidies government pays to private power generators and the tendering process on the side of fuel supply to these companies.

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