Buck stops with Gigaba to overcome Eskom’s crises

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By the look of things, Eskom seems to lurch from one crisis to the next like it is nobody’s business. The brewing uproar about the appointment of Collin Matjila as acting chief executive portends another rocky episode for an entity whose focus right now should be on helping the country keep the lights on.

The unfolding drama over Matjila did not just suddenly sneak up on the monopoly power producer. Its genesis is the soft-touch approach of Malusi Gigaba, the Minister of Public Enterprises.

Eskom needs tough love, and that tough love must entail intervention by the minister to ensure that the utility has a capable individual to run this very important entity in the national interest – not for personal aggrandisement.

The proverbial buck with Eskom stops with Gigaba, and the country is looking up to him to sort out the ensuing turmoil over Matjila. Gigaba, along with the rest of South Africa, has known for some time now that the very able Brian Dames will eventually leave Eskom.

Ever since his appointment Dames has been Eskom’s Plan A and he carried the weight on his shoulders effortlessly. So, it really is a mystery why the board would not have drawn up another Plan A to deal with the apparent leadership vacuum at such a critical time for Eskom.

The furore over Matjila is the last thing Eskom needs right now. Perhaps it would be the honourable thing for Gigaba to ask Matjila to vacate the position of acting chief executive as a matter of urgency.

The National Union of Mineworkers and the DA have made it abundantly clear that they consider Matjila unsuitable for the position he has ascended to, and they are most certainly not alone in thinking this way. So Gigaba must please step up to the plate, and put Eskom on the right course – not tomorrow, but today.

Oceana

“There are 2 650 shareholders who will be advocating for fishing rights in future.”

Did this line uttered by Oceana chief executive Francois Kuttel yesterday give away the story behind the story of an empowerment company generously distributing what is due to its workers?

Kuttel could not have chosen a worse time to drop this line after the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, dropped a hint that she would advocate for Oceana to get the fishing rights it “deserved” in new allocation windows next year and in 2020.

Joemat-Pettersson suggested that even if she did not remain the fisheries minister after the elections, she would still have an influence as she now sat on the ANC’s national working committee.

“There is nothing stopping me from whispering to whomever will be the minister of fisheries that there is a good company,” she said, referring to Oceana.

While the minister and Oceana management hailed the company as an example of what could be achieved when there was greater compliance with the broad-based black economic empowerment policy, Kuttel dwelled as much on the assurance of Oceana’s fishing rights as he did on the subject of the day.

His plea – that Oceana demonstrated to the government that “the benefits of commercial fishing rights will have the most value created if they are retained in trusted hands of responsible, transformed companies such as Oceana” – shifted the focus away from what was supposed to be a day about the workers towards Oceana’s worthiness to retain its rights in furture.

And he went on: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the more rights we have, the more value we shall be able to create.”

It is certainly fitting that a firm that has embraced transformation like Oceana – pronounced as the JSE’s second-most transformed firm – should be rewarded.

But Kuttel’s sentiments that there would now be 2 650 black workers advocating for the company’s fishing rights in future does raise questions as to whether the establishment of the Oceana Empowerment Trust was not a strategic move to begin with. page 19

Edited by Peter DeIonno. With contributions from Ellis Mnyandu and Londiwe Buthelezi.


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