/ 26 January 2010

Cosatu questions ‘greed’ of Maroga’s Eskom claim

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Tuesday that while it agrees that former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga has the legal right to take his former employer to court for unfairly dismissing him, the amount that he is demanding — R85-million — is massively excessive.

The union said anyone who is aggrieved and wants to take their case to court should not be condemned, but Maroga’s action sends a terrible message to the public — that it is OK for the elite to get millions of rands in packages after resigning or being fired, regardless of how well they have performed.

Cosatu said that Eskom under Maroga’s leadership failed to resolve the deep problems it confronted after the then-government refused to give it the money it needed in the late 1990s for the construction of new power stations. Maroga had plenty of time to tackle this problem and turn the situation around, but abjectly failed to do so and presided over the disastrous load-shedding power cuts of 2008.

The union said that even if Maroga can prove that the Eskom board forced him to resign, how can he then believe that he is entitled to such a huge sum, which is reported to include R1-million for a “dedicated driver and protector for his family”, R500 000 for security at his home and R1-million for “personal assistance”.

According to Cosatu: “This is yet another example of the culture of self-entitlement and greed, which has plagued the business sector and has been invading the public service as well.”

“Eskom is still a public utility, with a mandate to provide power to all South Africans as efficiently and cheaply as possible. It is not, and must never become, a business to maximise profits and a way of enriching a small elite of executives.”

‘Troubling issues’
Meanwhile, United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa has asked the National Assembly’s energy committee chair, Elizabeth Thabethe, to call the Eskom board to appear before the committee.

In a letter to Thabethe on Tuesday, Holomisa said Eskom’s board should be invited to appear before the committee “in the wake of the troubling issues” that were raised in the recent National Energy Regulator of South Africa hearings on Eskom’s proposed tariff increases.

These included Eskom’s financial strategy and material conflicts of interest.

“High on the agenda for such a meeting should be whether the board was aware of the stake in the Hitachi deal of African National Congress investment company, Chancellor House,” he said.

The board should brief the committee on the history of the deal. In particular, why Hitachi got the deal, what the role of politicians was in the process, and whether Hitachi “essentially bribed their way into the winning position by partnering with Chancellor House”.

“We would also like to hear the board’s views on the untenable situation created where proposed massive tariff increases will directly benefit the ruling party to the tune of billions of rands, while having a major negative impact on the entire economy.

“It creates the impression that the public is being coerced into funding the ruling party by way of tariffs.

“Parliament needs to satisfy itself that this deal does not constitute a conflict of interest.

“If it is proven that there is in fact a conflict of interest, the board should show cause why the deal should not be cancelled,” Holomisa said. — I-Net Bridge, Sapa