THE SHAKE UP: Koko et al besmirched black excellence
Opinion / 20 March 2019, 2:00pm / Sechaba ka'Nkosi
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa has come face to face with the real effects of the state of capture: the ongoing power cuts that have shrunk the country’s overall production and services capacity; the rising electricity prices that threaten to put more people on to the streets and the volatile currency that has been made even more vulnerable by things that could have been avoided.
All this points to one thing - we are in for a night of the long wake.
We all knew we had problems. But we underestimated the net effects.
And when the past two weeks brought intermittent power cuts in the middle of summer and weekends when electricity consumption is at its lowest, even the most sceptical among us suddenly woke up to the reality that state capture is more than just a chat between drunk friends in a dingy pub in Hillbrow or a Saxonwold shebeen.
It is real.
In the not too distant future, we will begin to count the rands and cents of its impact on our being.
We will move beyond the figures that are touted on the economy and businesses.
We will talk about real people.
From the dusty streets of Katlehong to the valleys of the beautiful villages of Mbangweni, we will calculate the costs that the operational and financial problems that have engulfed Eskom have had on us as a nation.
The rand has already set the tone, tumbling from being the best performing currency among emerging economies to the worst as investors mull over what the Eskom fallout will mean for the economy.
Add to that the steady rise in fuel costs in the past two months despite the fact that crude oil prices have not up-scaled dramatically, then you will know how far we have fallen.
When the price of sending goods from the producer to the market increases, the sellers pass the cost on to the consumer.
Business hates to absorb incidental pressures.
And it is the poor of the poorest who get affected the most as the rich can on the whole insulate themselves from inflationary pressures.
By the look of things, the slide of state capture is likely to continue for months to come.
Yet in all this, former Eskom acting chief executive Matshela Koko, who is one of the few people who were key in the relinquishing of our sovereignty to the Guptas, tells us we do not have to point fingers.
This despite overwhelming evidence at the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture, Corruption and Fraud, that is chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo. Koko says he has no knowledge of the happenings that took place under his watch.
He swears by whatever is most sacred to him that he had nothing to do with the circumventing of processes to facilitate a prepayment to the Guptas just weeks after they managed to buy Optimum Coal mine from Glencore in dubious circumstances.
He pleaded with us to understand that he was way too removed from the shenanigans.
What is sad is that Koko is one of a few qualified black people who worked at Eskom on merit.
For him to qualify as an engineer and spend more than 20 years at the power utility shows just how he defied all the odds to make a name for himself.
He was, like Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh, a symbol of black excellence.
Sadly, the three have now become the antithesis of that excellence.
They have become the readily available tools that far right lunatics like Solidarity embrace to condemn black people.
And the backlash that black professionals are getting is not misplaced.
Under Koko, Molefe and Singh the Guptas managed to evolve from being vultures circling around state-owned enterprises to influential businessmen who determined how South Africans were going to live their lives.
Forget former minerals resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane who strong-armed Glencore into selling one of its most prized assets to the Guptas.
He was nothing more than a useful idiot who did not have the pedigree to assist in such a brazen heist of our wealth.
Koko, Molefe and Singh had the brains to carefully mothball a once powerful and profitable company that brought foreign currency to the fiscus and converted it into a beggar.
One day when international scholars of history write their thesis on this phenomenon called state capture, Koko, Molefe and Singh’s names will be mentioned.
The scholars will discover how the three colluded in widening our budget deficit and debt to growth domestic product as the National Treasury poured more money into Eskom instead of fulfilling its development programmes.
They will blame them for the downgrading of our sovereign debt by international ratings agencies.
The trio will also be talked about around dinner tables as the people who jammed our potential growth and condemned an already struggling economy to near death.
Retrenched mineworkers will bay for their blood and economists will look at them in disgust for the contraction of both the consumer and business sentiment that has led to thousands of workers losing their jobs as struggling businesses shut their doors.
This is not only a shame. It is an indictment to black excellence.
Koko, Molefe and Singh would be seen as black collaborators who used their education and influence to condemn the poor.
The Judas Iscariots of our time.
But as we blame them, and rightfully so, we also have to be mindful of our role in reclaiming our being.
We have to set our standards much higher for the current board and executives that run Eskom.
We have to ask questions about why a year after they were appointed Eskom’s performance has not improved.
We have to ask President Cyril Ramaphosa about what the war room that was set up to look into Eskom is actually doing.
Our confidence in the new order should not blind us into not demanding that it delivers on its mandate in a transparent manner.
We accept that things have changed, but we are not reasonable in expecting dependable service from them.
Apologies are not enough.
As our optimism and our euphoria on Ramaphosa’s assumption of the highest office in the land has shown, reality runs much deeper than sentiment.