In 2009, former president Jacob Zuma attempted to “install” Jacob Maroga as the chief executive of Eskom, the commission of inquiry into state capture heard on Tuesday.
During her testimony before the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan detailed how Zuma had halted the resignation of Maroga — interfering with the Eskom board’s decision to accept his resignation.
According to the Eskom board at the time — chaired then by former AngloGold Ashanti CEO Bobby Godsell — Maroga had offered to resign as chief executive in October 2009. Maroga denied this.
Hogan told the commission about how she subsequently met with Maroga to resolve the matter and coordinate his “dignified exit” from the power utility. Hogan said she did not want to interfere with the board’s decision.
According to Hogan, during a four-and-a-half-hour meeting with Maroga, he had asked her to exercise her authority by reconfirming his position as the chief executive of Eskom. Hogan said she told Maroga that she could not do this.
Hogan went on to relay how a press briefing to confirm Maroga’s resignation scheduled by the Eskom board in November 2009 was cancelled after Zuma allegedly called Hogan to direct it to stop it from going ahead.
The cancelled press briefing caused a media storm, threatening public confidence in Eskom, Hogan told the commission.
Hogan explained how she later met with Zuma who told her that he would reconfirm Maroga as Eskom chief executive. This was “the deal”, Hogan said Zuma told her.
‘Dismayed’ was how the board reacted to Zuma’s view, and they asked to meet with Zuma themselves. During a meeting with Zuma, the board acquiesced his request on the condition that Maroga takes special leave as soon as he was reconfirmed as chief executive.
Godsell resigned shortly after it emerged that no such special leave was to be taken by Maroga. The stress of the matter had been too much for Godsell, Hogan said.
Once he had claimed back his position at the helm of Eskom, Maroga wrote a letter to Hogan and the Eskom board in which he made a “declaration of independence” from the board and the minister.
Hogan said the letter was “a complete flouting of corporate governance”, calling it an example of “complete arrogance”.
“It was in effect a chief executive that had gone rogue — on the understanding that the president would back him,” she said.
Hogan said the Eskom matter “crystallised” for her the fact that the Zuma had undermined her executive authority and was willing to act totally beyond his mandate. It was at this point that Hogan said she decided to resign and the situation had filled her with a sense of “foreboding of what was to come”.
The president was showing “very unfortunate signs” of imposing his authority without consideration of the constitutional framework, Hogan said.
Hogan said Zuma had ultimately changed his mind about Maroga and requested that Godsell returns to Eskom after he had resigned.
During the battle at Eskom, Hogan said she also received a phone call from then ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Mantashe told Hogan: “If the black guy goes, the white guy must also go” in reference to Godsell.
“Throughout this tussle with Mr Maroga, Mr Mantashe said: ‘I am not getting involved in this. I disagree with the President and I am not getting involved’,” Hogan said.
“It was only when the issue of Mr Godsell came up that he intervened.”
At the beginning of Tuesday’s proceedings, Advocate Phillip Mokoena announced the commission’s legal team had received an unsigned statement from Mantashe challenging aspects of Hogan’s testimony. It is not yet clear if Mantashe will apply to cross-examine Hogan.