/ 6 November 2009

Eskom stays silent on Maroga

As Eskom made no further comment on the future of chief executive Jacob Maroga on Friday, the chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on public enterprises said Maroga had personally told her he had not resigned.

”I got the shock of my life when I heard he had resigned. I phoned Mr Maroga and he told me ‘No, I have not resigned’,” Vytjie Mentor told the South African Press Association.

Eskom chairperson Bobby Godsell told staff at the electricity utility on Thursday that Maroga had quit with immediate effect after two years in the post.

However, the African National Congress Youth League disputed this and demanded to see the resignation letter. Mentor also called for proof that he had quit, and demanded that the matter be clarified soon for the sake of national stability.

”People must have the confidence that there will be energy security,” she said.

She called on the Eskom board to brief Parliament on the matter on Friday morning, but later cancelled the meeting because she ”realised it was too short notice”. Godsell was to have led the delegation.

Mentor said she wanted to give Eskom more time to resolve the matter for the sake of fairness, but warned that if this were not the case by next week, the state should step in.

She would not hesitate to call Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan to the committee to explain the situation, she said.

”This is taking too long to resolve. We have the right to query. If the board and Mr Maroga cannot clear the confusion, the state must clear the confusion.

”When there is a capital crisis the state must step in with a bond, a loan … that is an unfair relationship. It cannot be that we own these things as the government of South Africa and our ownership is only in terms of equity injections, loans, guarantees.”

Mentor said rumours suggested that the saga revolved around personality problems between Maroga and Godsell, though they had only two weeks ago at a briefing to the committee appeared to be on ”cordial” terms.

The Sowetan reported that Maroga offered to resign last week, but that he also wrote a letter saying he had no intention of resigning.

A secretary in Maroga’s office referred queries to the media desk, which said it did not know what the situation was.

The Black Management Forum said that state-owned enterprises were being turned into ”slaughterhouses” for black professionals such as Maroga, who it believed had been pushed into resigning.

Social media sites crackled with comment reflecting on whether Maroga’s predicament was because of his race.

One Twitter user wrote: ”Strange to fire Maroga for ignoring a report. Is SA purging black leaders. Eskom woes started long b4 Maroga came. The board?? enuff said.”

Another wrote: ”Oh of course Malema will say the Maroga resignation is a racist one, of course. Yawn Julius, so boring now dude … Seriously!” of Malema, who was leading a delegation to Nedbank to discuss transformation concerns related to the banking group.

The Mail & Guardian reported that at a board meeting last week Maroga offered to resign, and so did Godsell. Both were asked to leave the meeting and board elected to accept Maroga’s offer and to keep Godsell, according to an unnamed source.

Maroga’s ”demise” was related to a report on coal procurement written by energy consultant Susan Olsen, the M&G said.

She warned Maroga six months before the electricity crisis of 2008 that Eskom’s coal division would collapse under its own weight unless serious steps were taken. — Sapa