/ 10 November 2009

Eskom: Leave racism out of it, says Mantashe

African National Congress secretary general Gwede Mantashe on Tuesday warned that the current events surrounding electricity utility Eskom should not be simplified into a racism issue.

”Everybody must be careful. If there’s a crisis, they begin to be personal and begin to go to the lowest level of irrationality,” Mantashe told South African Broadcasting Corporation radio news.

”By beginning to accuse Godsell of being a racist … we know that is far from the truth. We begin to talk of [Eskom CEO Jacob] Maroga purely on the basis of blackness. We must focus on the crisis and try to address that crisis,” said Mantashe.

The Black Management Forum (BMF) hinted at racism after Godsell announced on Thursday that Maroga had resigned from his position. But since then, Maroga has returned to his job while Godsell himself resigned on Monday.

Meanwhile, Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor on Tuesday angrily dismissed fears the management battle at Eskom would scare off foreign investors, saying it was just a boardroom tussle.

”You cannot turn a boardroom problem into a national economic crisis,” she snapped at a journalist at a media briefing by Cabinet’s economic and employment cluster in Cape Town.

Pandor added that the rand seemed to have strengthened in early trading on Tuesday and that the gold price was holding steady, defying any notion of a crisis.

She commended Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan for moving swiftly to name board member Mpho Makwana as acting chairperson after Godsell resigned.

‘We don’t want another SABC’
The National Union of Mineworkers on Tuesday defended Godsell against claims he was a racist.

There had been suggestions by the BMF and others that Eskom’s leadership issue was about racial tension, NUM secretary general Frans Baleni told a press briefing in Johannesburg.

”And others have said Bobby Godsell is a racist … we say there is no evidence of that,” he replied when asked who had used the term to describe Godsell.

”He didn’t apply to Eskom for the job. Godsell was approached by the ANC government, who is the shareholder.”

Baleni said while the topic was of great concern to NUM, he did not support racism being manufactured to suit certain agendas.

”The issue of plain racism, even when there is none, makes it difficult for all of us to confront real racism where it exists.”

There could be no racism issue at the parastatal as the majority of Eskom’s board was black, he said.

”[Eskom] is there to serve the nation and the country … perhaps both Godsell and Maroga must disappear from Eskom so that it can do its work.”

The union called for the power utility’s shareholder and Hogan to intervene.

”We don’t want another SABC and we will be seeking a meeting with the minister … we do not want the running of Eskom to be paralysed by focusing on individuals. — Sapa