Business, Politics

ANALYSIS: What do JFK, the Moon landing and Jacob Maroga have in common?

By Branko Brkic 12 November 2009

Eskom’s explanation about its leadership crisis raises more questions than it answers.

There are some things that people just want to know. They want to know who killed JFK. They want to know if a man really walked on the moon, or if it was actually an elaborate Hollywood set. When it comes to Eskom, people want to know what’s happening not because of the inherent interest of the subject, but because there is a good chance it will affect their ability to make coffee in the morning. And if they can’t make coffee that would cause personal discomfort and repeated expletive outbursts, which could lead to high blood pressure and broken homes.

So after nearly a week’s worth of confusion in which the CEO Jacob Maroga was said to have resigned, then apparently didn’t, then the Chairman Bobby Godsell resigned, but may not have, Eskom finally held a press conference today to explain everything.

Courtesy of press association Sapa, this is what we now know:

  • According to Eskom chairman Mpho Makwana, Jacob Maroga is no longer chief executive officer at Eskom.
  • Makwana met with Moroga for a full day on Wednesday and he is satisfied Maroga has resigned.
  • In 90 days, Eskom hopes to be “as close as possible” to identifying a key candidate as CEO.
  • Maroga did not get a golden handshake.
  • The key task of Eskom is to continue to provide continuous secure electricity.

Are we clear now? No, not really.

Why is it that Makwana is satisfied that Maroga has resigned? It sounds a bit like Maroga’s resignation is something that Makwana believes rather than being an actual fact, which is exactly what the problem has been from the start.

One theory about what actually happened is this: Maroga presented to the board a transformation plan, saying if the board did not accept his plan, he would be obliged to resign. The board did not accept the plan, but did accept his resignation, taking him at his word.

If you play chicken, you need to be prepared to lose. He played. He lost.

This is the reason why in the mind of the board, he resigned, but in his mind, he apparently has not actually, as yet, finally, totally resigned on paper. Except that apparently he now has.

This would explain why the ANC Youth League, in the midst of a racial rampage, taunted the board by demanding they produce Maroga’s actual resignation letter, which obviously the board could not do because there was an ultimatum, but no letter.However, this is just a theory. What actually happened is still unclear.

There are other things we don’t know, among which are these:

  • What did President Jacob Zuma say to former chairman Bobby Godsell? For example, did he want him to stay or did he invite Godsell to leave?
  • Is the government’s position that Maroga should go or that he should stay?
  • Does the government, the sole shareholder, support Maroga’s transformation plan, or not? Or to put it another way, is the board on the way out at the next available opportunity?
  • Who did really kill JFK?

The turn of events also raises another problem; did the ANC Youth League once again blunder into an area of national crisis boots first? The League and the Black Management Forum appear to have sided with Maroga without realising that he had been involved in this game of chicken with the board. If they knew that he had made acceptance of his plan a prerequisite for his continuation as CEO, then surely the Eskom situation is at the very least comparable to the situation with SA athletics boss Leonard Chuene – who was supported to the hilt, only for it to emerge later he had lied.

The Youth League has had to backtrack and withdraw its allegations in that case. It had to backtrack and withdraw its allegations against Nedcor in a separate but related miss-accusation. Will it have to do so again? This is one of the things people need to know.

By Tim Cohen



Zondo Commission will be long and thorough – will it outlast President Ramaphosa?

By Ferial Haffajee

Microwave popcorn is nothing special. You can have the same effect with normal popcorn kernels and a brown paper bag.