20 October 2019
Powerless Eskom, dovish Hawks proof that right people are not in right positions
So our president, he of the new dawn, recently returned from the Africa Summit, but not anywhere in Africa, where he delivered a very strong message: there’s a new cohort of people in SA turning things around for the better.
Well, are things turning around? In circles, perhaps. There’s too much talk. We just need results. This past week, Eskom chairman, no wait, Eskom acting CEO – who also happens to be a supplier for the same state-owned entity – Jabu Mabuza made a mess of the power outage explanation.
Forget the explanation, just how you introduce Mabuza to the nation before he says a word about the outage – the chairman, CEO and supplier of an organisation that is not doing what it’s supposed to do – is, in itself, indicative of how little attention we pay to conflicting interests and accountability.
The chairman is supposed to read the riot act to the CEO, before the minister rats on the chairman. But the minister saw nothing wrong in appointing the chairman to act as CEO of an entity where he is a service provider. Ludicrous.
Ramaphosa goes to London and tells the world we are turning things around for the better. Yet this chairman-CEO-supplier is unleashing load-shedding as if Jacob Zuma is still in charge. And I have decided to leave Zuma to focus on his trial – amid dwindling support – but things at Eskom must, in fact, turn around for the better. The sheepish apology from Mabuza must be sent back to sender: we don’t want apologies – Mr chairman-CEO-supplier! No. Just do your work, whatever it is in those three roles.
A new dawn must mean you do everything possible to keep the lights on. We are tired of speeches. We are tired of talk-shops about turning things around. People must just do what they’re employed to do. What else do we expect from Eskom other than keeping the lights on? Having had the same mandate for years, why is it still a mystery for Eskom how it must keep the lights on?
The problem here is that Ramaphosa tries too hard to be a nice guy, to be Mandela-like. Any hard taskmaster would not have allowed the Mabuza chairman-CEO-supplier situation to last longer than a month. But Matamela is so naïve he does not even see that his attempts at being nice, at being like Mandela, are sabotaging his own success.
Take his drive to fight corruption in the country – the very ticket that got him the top post in the ANC. Ramaphosa, like the rest of us, knew long before the ANC Nasrec conference of 2017 that corruption had become cancerous in our society. He knew that Zuma killed off the Scorpions specifically to undermine its capacity to investigate and, with the National Prosecuting Authority, successfully prosecute criminals. The Hawks were to be a caricature, a bad joke. A unit of investigators who struggle to read company financial statements and thus all members of the Zuma looting machinery and their white cabal in Steinhoff can go about their business without a care what the Hawks – or should we just say the doves – will do! Now, for Ramaphosa to rely on the Hawks, sorry, the Doves, to turn things around for the better is like relying on Mabuza being chairman, CEO and supplier and hoping we will never have load-shedding. This is beyond absurd.
In Jim Collins’s masterpiece Good To Great, he reminds us that the old adage “people are your most important asset” is wrong. The right people in the right position are! It is, for me, inconceivable how Mabuza can be the right person in three positions in Eskom. Let’s return to this later.
Ramaphosa appointed Shamila Batohi in a move that was meant to unleash mini heart attacks and strokes among state capture principals. Batohi, in turn, appointed Hermione Cronje in what we were told was a reintroduction of the ways of the Scorpions of yonder. Batohi has, like Ramaphosa, been making speeches and Cronje has been organising roundtable discussions on how to fight corruption! The Steinhoff mafia, who cost poor South Africans their pensions, remain at large, enjoying what remains of their billions while Ramaphosa, Batohi and Cronje go around sheepishly promising fire! The looters of VBS in the ANC are killing each other in Limpopo. They have no concern about Batohi and her minions. They use the gun to rob children of their parents. They’ve created a jungle out of Limpopo.
I am really speech-fatigued.
That Batohi was a great prosecutor, for example, does not mean she will be a great NDPP. It is the results, not unending speeches in colonial towns, that will send out a strong enough message that the new dawn is here. It is having months of uninterrupted power supply, not apologies from Mabuza, that will tell us that there is a new sheriff in town. When state capture captains, Steinhoff mafioso face criminal action, Matamela will not need to speak at the top of his voice in colonial towns. Let me be clear, I don’t miss Zuma. He’s good riddance to trash. I also think Ramaphosa is good – but far from great.
To revert to Collins’s counsel: “That good is the enemy of great is not just a business problem. It is a human problem”. Ramaphosa is good. He is an improvement on Zuma. But Zuma is not our standard, in the same way Collins says good is not good enough. We need to move from good to great!