/ 13 November 2009

SA wants Godsell back at Eskom

Bobby Godsell is being asked to reconsider his resignation as chairperson from troubled utility Eskom, South Africa Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan said on Friday.

Godsell resigned on Monday after he said the government failed to support the board’s bid to oust the company’s chief executive Jacob Maroga after the two clashed over issues on how to run the state-owned firm struggling to keep South Africa’s lights on.

The resignation of Maroga was finally confirmed on Thursday.

”There was never any pressure that Bobby Godsell should ever leave … We would be very grateful if he would reconsider his position,” said Hogan on Talk Radio 702, and added she would be speaking to the former chairperson over the weekend.

”We would like normality to be restored at Eskom and if that means bringing Bobby Godsell back, yes, we would like that.”

Godsell was not immediately available for comment.

Analysts said the departure of Godsell suggested political meddling which the government failed to stop and markets would only regain confidence in the utility’s ability to keep the lights on if two credible new leaders were appointed.

The government appointed Godsell 15 months ago to head Eskom through one of its most difficult periods after the national grid nearly collapsed, forcing mines to shut for days and costing the biggest economy in Africa billions of dollars.

Both Hogan and President Jacob Zuma have been criticised for failing to provide adequate leadership to resolve the clash between the two Eskom leaders, widely commented on by various interest groups while the government remained silent.

But Zuma and Hogan said that all this time they had full confidence in Eskom’s board to make the right decisions.

”We have full confidence in the boards [of state-owned enterprises] and the minister and trust them to run the institutions in the interests of both the government and the people of South Africa,” Zuma said in an emailed letter, written in his role as president of ruling African National Congress.

Both politicians further dismissed the use of the race card in the dispute after the ANC’s militant Youth League and the Black Management Forum asked for Godsell to quit, saying he drove a racist agenda against Eskom’s black chief executive.

”Such racial slur, particularly directed at Mr Bobby Godsell … [goes] against the core values of our society and our Constitution … the value and importance of non-racialism,” Hogan said in a speech to Parliament on Thursday.

Zuma further stressed that the ANC was a ”non-racial organisation”. — Reuters