As calls mount for his removal, Imperial CEO and Eskom board member Mark Lamberti apologised for racist, sexist remarks about being "a female employment equity appointment" he made to a former Imperial employee, Fin24 reported.
The former employee, Adila Chowan, reportedly brought the complaint against Lamberti in 2015 after leaving the company. He reportedly made the disparaging reference – implying she got her job because of her race and gender, rather than meeting the professional qualifications – in front of other employees during a meeting about her future career path.
The High Court in Pretoria found that he had impaired the employee's dignity, although it stopped short of finding Lamberti or the company guilty of racial or gender discrimination.
In a statement on Tuesday, Fin24 reported that Lamberti said he "apologises unreservedly" for the comments he made. He was recently appointed to the Eskom board as part of a clean-up effort initiated by President Cyril Ramaphosa when he took office earlier this year.
According to MoneyWeb, Lamberti said he did not mean to "insult or demean [Chowan] in any way". The court ordered him to pay her costs, and damages have yet to be set.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan is reportedly studying the judgment, according to Eyewitness News (EWN). The Imperial Group, the site reports, said it was glad that no findings of racial or gender discrimination were made against Lamberti.
Meanwhile, the Black Business Council called for tough action against Lamberti, saying he should be removed from the Eskom board and that discrimination should not be tolerated.
The EFF echoed this call, eNCA reported. The party said Lamberti had undertaken to resign, should the court find against him, during a meeting of the portfolio committee on public enterprises.
"Lamberti is not fit to hold any board position in our state-owned entities, particularly a position at Eskom board that has seen turbulences due to unprincipled characters in the recent past," the party is quoted as saying.
In an opinion piece published by Daily Maverick this week, constitutional law expert Pierre de Vos also said Lamberti should go.
"The institutional racism and sexism faced by many black women who work in big South African corporations dominated by white men is seldom confirmed as authoritatively as in a recent judgment of the South Gauteng High Court. If it was not for principled and brave people like Adila Chowan, who decided to challenge this toxic culture after she was fired from her job, the public at large might never have known that Imperial Holdings (and AMH, the subsidiary where Chowan worked) was a cesspit of racism and sexism," de Vos wrote.