Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan has come out in support of the Eskom board in the power utility’s leadership battle, and slammed reports of racism and criticisms of her department.
She affirmed the decision to accept Jacob Maroga’s verbal resignation, in a bitingly honest speech to Parliament that began late on Thursday afternoon. Her speech followed Eskom’s own announcement of Maroga’s resignation.
Along with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Hogan defended former chairperson Bobby Godsell, who was dubbed a racist by the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and Black Management Forum (BMF).
“It is very disturbing to note that this matter also became a racial football, targeting certain individuals who I believe have integrity and only the best interests of the country at heart. Such racial slur, particularly directed at Mr Bobby Godsell, the former chair of the board, goes against what we fought for and codified in Kliptown, and is also against the core values of our society and our Constitution — especially, the value and importance of non-racialism. I want to thank Mr Godsell for his exemplary leadership in the last 15 months.”
Godsell stepped down on Monday after Maroga returned to work victorious, and accusations by the ANCYL and BMF of his and the mainly black board’s “anti-transformation” agenda seemed to split the alliance, with trade unions supporting the mining heavyweight.
While not alluding to the BMF directly — the group was the most vociferous critics of the Eskom board — Hogan said the dispute “disturbingly” was used by groups with their own agendas.
“They provided undue pressure through a never-ending stream of public commentary that sometimes had no basis in fact or law, and only served to inflame and exaggerate an already complex and difficult boardroom matter. This is indeed lamentable.”
Hogan also hit back at critics of her department, saying she had chosen to maintain “a prudent silence” in the volatile atmosphere of the past two weeks.
“During this period, a demand arose that the minister must provide ‘leadership’. As we were to discover, the subtext of this demand was in actual fact a demand that I, as minister, override the board and confirm a person in his position,” she said.
“As minister, I refused to override the principles of corporate governance by imposing a person in the position of CEO without the authority of the law. The type of leadership I preferred to exercise was rather to work indefatigably behind the scenes to resolve the matter.”
The truth of the presidential intervention is also clearer, but Hogan maintained the “intervention was not taken lightly and was not done to undermine the board but rather lend it support to resolve the dispute”.