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Xolile Sizani Takes the Helm at PetroSA Amidst Leadership Turmoil

Published March 01, 2024
4 months ago

In a significant leadership overhaul, Xolile Sizani has been assigned the chief executive officer role at PetroSA, South Africa's national oil company, as it eyes a resurgence in operations at its gas-to-liquid fuels refinery located in Mossel Bay, Western Cape. Sizani, who boasts an impressive portfolio including tenures at Servest and Medipos, steps into a position vacated nearly 18 months ago following Pragasen Naidoo's departure.

The installation of a new CEO is timely. PetroSA has faced operational challenges, and Sizani's leadership arrives at a pivotal moment as the company also navigates the strategic partnership with Russia's Gazprombank. This agreement is intended to invigorate the refining capabilities at Mossel Bay but has prompted caution from certain international banks about continuing relations with the South African entity, highlighting the intricate balances of geopolitics and business.

Sizani's appointment has emerged amid controversy. Nkululeko Poya, PetroSA's acting chair who was once a hopeful for the CEO designation, resigned following the revelation that he is under inquiry by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, commonly known as the Hawks, for a concocted court order. This scandal has tarnished Poya's prospects within the company, putting an abrupt end to what once seemed a promising ascent to PetroSA's top position.

Poya's bid for the CEO role initially had Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe's backing, which conversely met resistance from Cabinet colleagues calling for more stringent pre-appointment screenings. Poya's record, marred by adverse findings including accusations of dishonesty, surveillance of staff, and manipulating tenders, ultimately failed the security clearance test required for the pivotal role at PetroSA. Despite this setback, Poya has indicated plans to challenge the State Security Agency's verdict, attributing the dubious court order to an "unscrupulous attorney."

Tensions surrounding Poya escalated last year when leading labor representatives from unions such as Solidarity, Numsa, and Ceppawu communicated directly with then acting CEO Sandisiwe Ncemane, expressing disquiet over his managerial practices. Allegations leveled against Poya accuse him of favoritism towards specific businesses and negligent approval of BEE suppliers. A dispute regarding a supplier contract led to a swift executive reshuffle where Ncemane was ousted by Poya, raising further questions about governance at the organization.

Before assuming leadership, Pragasen Naidoo's tenure at PetroSA was cut short, and according to reports, he received a substantial settlement, with an annual salary previously marked at R5.4 million. His early exit finalized a series of interim leaders since 2014, highlighting fluctuating stability at the helm of this key state-owned enterprise.

As Xolile Sizani takes control of the reins, stakeholders anticipate a period of renewal for PetroSA. It is hoped that his wealth of experience will steer the company back into a favorable trajectory, leveraging opportunities for growth while addressing the legacy issues of governance that have shadowed the company.

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