Time will tell if Ramakgopa is more than a mere pawn

The game being played on the Eskom chessboard typifies royal protection of kings and queens, with pawns spurred to the frontline to hold fort by order of power-wielders deciding who to remove or retain to play as they deem fit.

The game includes overt and covert competing multinational and local private sector players baying for as big a slice of the Eskom pie by smashing and grabbing self-serving contracts caring less whether multiplicity predatory agendas nestling on Eskom leaves it dead or alive.

The revolving door of CEOs at Eskom fits profiles of a range of personalities. The profiles include black knowledgeable operators comfortable in their skins. Some just treated Eskom as a springboard to reach greener pastures. And yet others stood out as hard-working souls caught in the web of politics strange to national interest.

In the year in which SA’s power utility marks its 100th anniversary, Eskom resembles a patient on an operating table with conflicting medical teams on either side. One side is geared at reviving the patient, the other is set to perform final rites.

But for the operation to go ahead unhindered, there is just one word that should not be heard flying out of lips of the funeral undertakers of Eskom. The word is privatisation. Albeit denials for the privatisation of Eskom are not convincing, unrepentant intent to privatise is forcibly implied.

The promise of the new dawn was the rhyme and reason behind the beat that sailed President Cyril Ramaphosa into the party presidency at the ANC’s Nasrec December 2017 elective conference. Privatisation was not a welcomed agenda item.

The National Assembly elects Ramaphosa as president of the republic on February 15, 2018. On the power utility front, Phakamile Hadebe is CEO at Eskom. The sunlight of hope refused to shine on Eskom. The impossible would even demand of Hadebe to catch the sun to add significant cheer in Ramaphosa’s Thuma Mina presidential hit song.

Tough choices there. Either there is light or Hadebe shoulders a cross for sins hovering darkness on Ramaphosa’s new dawn parade. The miracle of success refuses to smile in Hadebe’s favour. Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan did not make things easier.

Hadebe’s choices proved ominous. It was either his health or death on the job. He chose health.

A way forward necessitates the hatching of a new plan. Getting a white CEO, reportedly taking a salary cut for his availability kills two birds with one stone. It alleviates with keeping angry black/white super and inferior complexes at bay.

Enters Andre de Ruyter as Eskom CEO. Whites’ natural affinity to their own stretches desired elasticity of understanding. It also buys time from blacks inclined to believe that white is a given solution until this understanding spectacularly proves otherwise. There has never at Eskom been as protected and supported a CEO as De Ruyter. Getting the arch Eskom critic Sikhonathi Mantshantsha to serve as the utility’s spokesperson was cherry on the cake.

Even with these elaborate plans, darkness would not stop eclipsing the new dawn. In less than three years under De Ruyter’s tenure, South Africa endured 4 267 hours of loadshedding. That the department of public enterprises (DPE) continued to err on the side of
privatisation and the department of mineral resources and energy (DME) insisting the power utility would be home to DME rather than DPE conjured
images of two bulls locking horns over Eskom.

To calm waters under the bridge of the two troubled departments, and their respective heads, Gordhan and Gwede Mantashe, Ramaphosa established the ministry of electricity in the Presidency, in the person of Dr Kgosientso Ramakgopa. Whether darkness will yield to light, time will tell. Suffice to add that unveiled electricity DG Silas Zimu stands out as a welcome choice. 

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