Eskom appointed a new interim chairperson this week — board member Professor Malegapuru Makgoba. Makgoba is not a new face. He was the health ombudsman tasked with investigating the Life Esidimeni tragedy. He was also deputy chair of the national planning committee. He is also a leading immunologist, physician and public health advocate.
But for higher education insiders it is Makgoba’s time at University of Kwazulu-Natal that is memorable. He was the inaugural vice-chancellor overseeing the merger of several institutions. But his reign was chequered. He and the council chair were accused of sexual harassment; Makgoba was accused of plagiarism and of repeatedly of quashing dissent, and narrowing conditions of academic freedom. Several leading academics fled the institution. Makgoba was never found guilty of any wrongdoing.
But none of this has affected Makgoba’s ability to continue in positions of leadership. He was, for a time, the chairperson of M&G Media, which owns the Mail & Guardian. (It did not end amicably.) He is now acting Eskom chairperson.
If only Makgoba’s story was unique. There are 60-million people in South Africa, but we continue to recycle the same tired names into positions of influence, expecting something different.