Friday, November 20, 2009

Eskom: The Perfect Storm

Are some in the ANC finally waking up to the fact that their brand of racism is destructive? Sipho Ngcobo is a lone voice in the wilderness!


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By Sipho Ngcobo

Brace yourself for complete darkness

The race card will end in darkness, literally in darkness, argues Sipho Ngcobo.

Johannesburg - When all else fails, pull and wave a big race card. Welcome to "Raceland". And good luck, because you are going to need it.

We all know how rife racism is in this country. But for blacks to cry racism every time incompetence is exposed, is not only embarrassing but sets a very bad precedent.

Eskom chief executive, Jacob Maroga, seems to have been successful enough to use the race card for himself, even if temporarily, so he can hang on at the helm at Eskom.


But this, I guarantee, will end in darkness, literally in darkness.

If you think the horrible power outages of January 2008, were bad, brace yourself for the worst - complete darkness.

Bobby Godsell is gone. Yes, he is gone.

He made it clear this week that government, Eskom's sole shareholder, had failed to stand by the board when it accepted Maroga's verbal offer to resign on October 28.

"In these circumstances, and with the best interest of the organisation in mind, the course of action seems to me to resign," he said in a statement.

I would have done the same. If there is no shareholder support at the critical time like this, what option did Godsell have? Godsell, like other board members, had unfettered duty to carry out his mandate without interference. If his independence is fettered then what's left?

Some blacks say "good riddance to the racist".

Is Bobby a racist? I have no idea. But what I know is that Godsell is a highly experienced business leader and competent and a credible businessman.

Eskom, a public enterprise of national strategic importance is, on the other hand, in serious jeopardy. Its impending collapse will threaten the security of the country in all spheres and levels of our lives as citizens. Without a properly functioning Eskom, we are all doomed and a series of events leading up to Godsell's resignation are a testament that Maroga is not competent enough to lead a 21st century power utility.

During his tenure, Godsell expressed concern over a number of operational gaps at the utility highlighted over more than a dozen previous board meetings.

These gaps show senior management was way out of its depth to deal with these problems, which demonstrated work was either incomplete or late.

He also expressed his concern at the capacity of senior management to act quickly and effectively to the serious challenges facing Eskom.

Susan Olsen's explosive report is the one that broke the camel's back. The report has since been leaked to opposition political parties as well as the press including the Mail & Guardian.


According to the Mail & Guardian, Olsen warned Maroga six months before the electricity crisis of January 2008 that Eskom's coal division would collapse under its own weight unless serious steps were taken.

It has been reported that the main reason for the board's dissatisfaction with Maroga is his handling of the Olsen's report, with claims that he did little to act on it. This failure is alleged to have resulted in the electricity crisis, which cost the country about R2bn a day.

Maroga responded by firing Olsen from her consultancy position after she presented the report. According to Olsen, Eskom's coal mismanagement is one of the reasons the country was plunged into darkness in 2008. Olsen, in her report, talks of a company deeply in trouble. Why did two of Eskom's coal-fired stations not have long-term supply contracts and why had this status quo been allowed to continue for several years? According to the Mail & Guardian, Olsen wanted to know why the existing contracts for the other eight coal-fired stations had not been negotiated to meet burn requirements.

She queried how Eskom had failed to foresee and solve coal supply crisis. She also pointed out that Eskom was not equipped for the challenges of the international coal market to secure coal and cope with domestic industrial demand.

Her report went further and expressed concern about the ability of staff at Eskom's generation primary energy (GPE) unit, citing their lack of experience in and failure to grasp the basics of commercial negotiations.

Confronted with these questions, Maroga cried racism.

For crying-out-loud, Olsen's document contains hard facts about the lack of operational expertise at Eskom and the fact that Maroga was not capable of leading this sensitive and complex business.

Maroga's supporters have been complaining that Godsell behaved like an executive chairman. I do not think he did. I think he kept very close to the business out of concern that there was a lot to do and out of commitment to correct the wrongs.

After all, Eskom is a complicated business, it needs a chairman who is going to be close. Godsell could not afford to chair meetings only once every quarter. There was a lot to correct. He had to be there more often. And he did it out of love for his country.

This notion that every failing black man or woman will hide his/her incompetence behind the cloak of racism is bull shit.

Stop it.

Sipho Ngcobo is former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He was one of the original team members of Business Day when the paper was launched in May 1985. He was a correspondent at international news agency Dow Jones where he reported on markets and companies in the early 1990s. He has also written for such publications as the Sunday Times, the World Paper in Boston and was employed by the New York Times Group in the US between 1989 an 1991.

H/T: Walter [emphasis = Ed.]

2 Opinion(s):

Anonymous said...

I didn't need to read Olsens report to postulate how the management of ESKOM was doing their job.When the first black-outs happened in ?2006, that was the first clue. And then Irwin blaming Koeberg's down-time on a spanner falling into a turbine - which was proved to be incorrect- that was the other clue. EVERYTHING the ANC touches turns to turd and this will not change, no matter how much we wish it otherwise. They are all completely out of their depth to run anything with a modicum of success. Don't expect anything less going forwards...

Anonymous said...

Quote: "We all know how rife racism is in this country. But for blacks to cry racism every time incompetence is exposed, is not only embarrassing but sets a very bad precedent."

The "BUT" in the paragraph above shows that the author still believe in the stereotype of the evil white racists, as opposed to the peace loving blacks. Even the best of the blacks, such as the author, still prescribe to the propaganda that is totally contrary to the truth.

If murder is taken as an expression of evil and inter-racial murder as the most extreme expression of racism, then the whites are angles in comparison to the blacks and then I haven't even figured torture killings of whites by blacks into the equation.

Although the author is more self aware than most other blacks, he still suffers from a healthy dose of denialism.

A4