The only way to fix Eskom is to fix the people who work there. Until we have one, legitimate and universally accepted view of the true state of affairs at the utility, more lies will be told, and swords be fallen on, writes Adriaan Basson
Who is really in charge of Eskom?
The Minister of Public Enterprises?
The war room?
The deputy president in charge of the war room?
The chairman of the board?
The board members?
The Human Resources department?
The trade unions?
The coal mine bosses?
The trucking bosses?
Former Eskom executives?
I end up asking myself this question each time another promise is broken, another deadline missed, or another conveyer belt breaks unexpectedly at our broken electrical supply company.
And I strongly believe that Eskom cannot be fixed before we have a clear and unequivocal answer to this question.
I suspect today the answer will be André de Ruyter, the new chief executive of Eskom who has been in office for exactly a week.
Will De Ruyter on his own be able to fix the mess that is Eskom?
A million times no.
Will he be lied to and make false promises to his political principles who know nothing about real power but everything about political power and how to let it slip a year before a local government election?
The resignation of Jabu Mabuza, a brilliant businessman and corporate governance leader, is the clearest signal yet that the management team of the utility is not in charge of Eskom.
About a year ago, I sat down with someone who knows our state-owned enterprises inside out. He explained to me the depth of state capture and that we (the media) have only scratched the surface when it comes to the impact of state capture at entities like Eskom.
Did the departure of Brian Molefe, Anoj Singh and Matshela Koko mean Eskom was suddenly uncaptured and working towards one goal only – to stabilise South Africa’s electricity grid? No ways.
There are still hundreds, if not thousands of people, employed by Eskom who do not want President Cyril Ramaphosa and by extension, our democracy to succeed. Remember the rapturous applause Molefe received when he returned to Eskom for a short stint in 2017?
This was after he had been implicated in state capture and malfeasance.
Those hundreds of singing, dancing Eskom employees are still at Megawatt Park. They didn’t leave the building with Molefe.
Eskom has over 46 000 employees. Many of them are hardworking women and men who work day-and-night to keep the lights on. They should be praised and remunerated accordingly. But many of them are not there for the public good.
They are in it for themselves. You need only read the charge sheet against two senior former Eskom executives and their private sector buddies who allegedly cheated Eskom out of R30m on an air condensers tender at Kusile power station to understand the phenomenon.
There are many more like them and I am picking up good signals from the National Prosecuting Authority that more Eskom-related arrests are on the cards.
The only way to fix Eskom is to fix the people who work there. Until we have one, legitimate and universally accepted view of the true state of affairs at the utility, more lies will be told, and swords be fallen on.
People must go to jail. A mid-level manager in the procurement department must be frightened to act contrary to the public interest because he may lose his job and go to prison.
De Ruyter will need every iota of help he can get to turn things around. The NPA has seemingly come to the party.
Will firing Pravin Gordhan or moving Eskom to Gwede Mantashe’s minerals and energy portfolio help De Ruyter with his mammoth task to save us all? Absolutely not.
Deputy president DD Mabuza, who comes from the coal-rich province of Mpumalanga, is wittingly or unwittingly being used by a faction in the ANC to drive Gordhan out of Eskom. They are even lobbying for the return of Koko and Molefe to “fix” Eskom – the utility they helped to break.
This must be seen for what it is: a central part of the fightback by the Nasrec losers against Ramaphosa and his allies, primarily Gordhan, who are trying to fix the mess left in the wake of Jacob Zuma’s departure.
Ramaphosa will do well to tell Mabuza to back-off, and continue to support Gordhan, who must ensure that De Ruyter receives the backing he needs to perform the open-heart surgery Eskom so desperately needs to survive.
– Basson is editor-in-chief of News24.