Business, Politics

Jacob Maroga’s gone. No, he isn’t. Maybe he is, but not just yet.

By Branko Brkic 5 November 2009

Eskom pulls off the biggest PR snafu since Mbeki didn’t fire the Deputy Health Minister.

So, what on earth is happening here?  First, there are reports, from pretty early in the morning (on Eyewitness News), that there would be “developments” in the Jacob Maroga issue.  Then Eyewitness News got a pretty hot tip, with the forward planning times of the “internal announcement” and the “official press conference”.

That’s usually good enough to say pretty thoroughly that someone is finding a box to clear their desk into, or so the script assured us. There was the internal announcement (moved from 11:00 to noon).  And in a company as big as Eskom, that was always going to be when the curtain went up.  It took about seven minutes to go public from there.  It took about 14 minutes for the DA to get the full text of the memo (ok, it does look like someone read it to them rather than copied and pasted the text).

Photo: Eskom Chairman, Bobby Godsell

But by one o’clock the story had already changed.  Bobby Godsell’s press conference had been “cancelled until further notice”.  The reason?  An urgent high-level meeting.  With whom?  We don’t know.  Where? We don’t know.  A quick SMS to the Public Enterprises Ministry put one possibility to bed.  Barbara Hogan is in Cape Town, so it’s not with her.  If he really needed to chat, well, you would think that somewhere in Megawatt Park there’s a video conference centre.  Or hell, we don’t have their direct cells, but we could get them if we had to.

By this stage, the whole world knew that “Eskom staff say they’ve been told that Maroga has resigned”.  However, the story clearly isn’t over yet.  Maroga may have some kind of ace to pull out of his sleeve.  Godsell probably wasn’t looking forward to the press conference, but he’d have wanted to get it over with.  So the phone call for the “urgent meeting” must have been a really, really urgent one.  The DA will be hoping it was from the Union Buildings.  Now that the president’s equatoguinean trip is over, they would love for the call to have come from him.  That would make it all true, that Zuma’s mates are getting help from the top. But, sadly, the truth could easily be a little more boring than that.

You know, there is a way to do these high-profile sackings. Even the low-level communication pro will tell you that you must keep any rumour to a minimum from the very start.  You have the internal staff meeting just minutes before the press conference.  You don’t have a couple of days of “no comment”, because that just shows you’re hiding something.  It’s also proof you’re fighting a sizeable internal battle.

The fight may not be entirely over.  If Maroga was demonstrably the much weaker fighter, he would have had to go pretty quickly.  He doesn’t strike us as someone who wants to follow the Dali Mpofu route to wealth.  And let’s face it, it’s not the best job in the country.  So clearly he’s not that weak in this dispute.  And Godsell’s doing the running around.  People who run generally aren’t in the pound seats at the time.  So Maroga has something in his back pocket.

There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear. But this saga isn’t over yet and it looks like it will keep giving. Although we can’t see how Maroga can seriously keep his job by the end of this week.

(With apologies to Buffalo Springfield.)

By Stephen Grootes

(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)

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