March 25, 2015 / 9:46 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 3-South Africa's Eskom chairman under fire as power crisis deepens

(Updates with CEO challenging suspension)

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN, March 25 (Reuters) - Board members at South Africa’s Eskom will vote on whether to remove Chairman Zola Tsotsi on Wednesday, sources said, deepening a leadership crisis at the power utility as chronic power cuts hobble Africa’s most developed economy.

Eskom’s chief executive, Tshediso Motana, who was temporarily relieved of his duties earlier this month along with three fellow executives, filed a complaint of “unfair suspension” with the national labour arbitrator, the body said.

The firing of the executives led to Standard and Poor’s cutting Eskom’s credit status to junk last Thursday, saying the suspensions had led to a loss of confidence in the company’s corporate governance.

Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown told parliament on Wednesday power outages were costing the country between $1.7 billion and $6.8 billion a month and that she was concerned about the management at state-owned Eskom.

Eskom’s board will hold a vote of no confidence in Tsotsi, a government source and a source at Eskom told Reuters. Brown said she had not been “formally informed” about Tsotsi’s future.

“I am very worried because Eskom is a strategic asset, all of our lives depend on it,” she said.

Eskom has implemented regular power cuts this year to prevent the national grid being overwhelmed as South Africa faces its worst energy crisis since 2008.

$1 = 11.8200 rand Additional reporting by Peroshni Govender; Writing by Joe Brock and Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by James Macharia and Janet Lawrence

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