Eskom and Fani (the Funny) Zulu

The Eskom disaster is just not going to die and quite rightly so. The contrasting statements made by Barbara Hogan and Dipuo Peters highlights a disaster of gargantuan proportion and allowing liars, sorry, “Spin Doctors”, like Funny Fani Zulu and his incompetent boss, to create perceptions aimed at minimizing the devastating effect on our economy, is nothing less than criminal. Unfortunately, government representatives, having been the main contributor to our perilous situation, and Eskom are diverting attention away from the real issues once again, minimising the extent of the crisis and diverting attention from the real issues. They are, very successfully aiming their message, modeled for the consumption of the uninformed masses with deadly effect. Millions of South Africans believe them, many of them are payment defaulters, not necessarily poor, and beneficiaries of illegal connections, who do not, for the most part, understand or care about the impact of an imploding power utility.

Pointing out the disaster facing the South African consumer and economy inevitably results in the popular, head-in-sand retort;”Pre-94 Power generation was for the privileged part of the population, it now caters for a wider population”. This argument is only partly true. Domestic use of power constitutes only 15% of the utilities’ capacity; the balance is utilized by industry for worthless job creating pursuits such as manufacturing, mining, beneficiation and many others. Imagine the small-minded self-interest of money-grabbing capitalists wanting to light up hotels so that the privileged can stay in luxury, forcing the poor and perpetually disadvantaged to do meaningless jobs like cleaning rooms and waiting on tables.

Eskom committed four deadly sins that brought us to the precipice. The first sin was committed when, in 1999 the esteemed, and still valued despite his spectacular failures in Trade and Industry and Transport , Jeff Radebe and the incompetent Nosizwa-Ngakula, was told that  infrastructural capacity investment in Eskom is critical to sustainability. Their reaction, in typical African visionary fashion was; “Live for today, tomorrow will look after itself”. Some will justify the inaction, saying they must be forgiven for thinking the request to expand the utility was an evil plot by white counter-revolutionaries trying to force the new masters into making costly mistakes. Anyway, it is not very African to make quick decisions. Because of the postponement of expansion projects Eskom could now spend their money and efforts on other things such as the accumulation of bad debt, compliments of the payment defaulters.

Management could now embark on the second deadly. They could focus their full attention on the sacred crusade against the sins of the past. Their single-minded commitment to transformation left the organization purged of white management- and technical skills. In a noble campaign to rid Eskom of the injustices of the past and to make it an AA benchmark, huge resources, which could’ve been used to build infrastructure, was paid out in voluntary separation packages to highly skilled and experienced people. The waste of money was exacerbated on fast tracking of under-qualified, inexperienced and incompetent replacements. The successful implementation of corrective action was probably a bonus criteria and management rewarded themselves handsomely for their efforts. Ironically, they re-hired, often through “vile”  labour brokers, many of the skilled people purged from the company, at an exorbitant price. These former employees, unpatriotic swine,  are like mercenaries, only in it for a quick return with no long-term commitment.

The third sin committed by the newly liberated Eskom management was their mind-boggling inventory management strategy. I can only imagine it being instigated by some recently appointed “black diamond”, who successfully and with a “Cum” completed a “six month” on-line Executive Development Progamme for Inventory Managers. Our “whiz-kid” was probably so taken by JIT-management, he missed the chapter on strategic inventory and his excuse for his oversight is the fact that he comes from a part of the country where it does not rain too much. The Eskom executive team was so taken with the effect of inventory reduction on the balance sheet and their bonuses, the strategy was accepted with much acclaim.

Continuing their journey to self-destruction Eskom sinned in their dogged commitment to BBBEE initiatives at any cost. By awarding transport contracts to unsustainable companies, one-man operations with a “bakkie” and a busted scrap-yard truck and often-fictitious companies their actions are analogous to risking the oxygen flow to the heart of our economy. On top of the transport fiasco, coal supply contracts with BEE compliant coal miners were concluded on terms weighed in favour of the supplier. The tried and trusted cost plus contracts flew out the window and soon Eskom was faced by rising coal prices based on buoyant coal demand.

It was hoped that, with the appointment of Godsell as Maroga’s mentor and Ras Myburgh as his coach, we would see the end of stupidity that have beset ESKOM. One would’ve hoped to see the end of statements by Bulwica Sonjica advising us on electricity efficient sleeping habits. We should be forgiven for hoping that the return of competence and skill would be a main priority. Alas, the more things change the more they stay the same.

The inane statements continue. Should Maroga continue to tell us about good of power supply and the absence of load shedding I think I will hang myself on the roof rafters. We are not stupid. With the number of Ferrochrome furnaces shut down because of the economic crisis, we should have enough spare power capacity to feed a city the size of Johannesburg.  Maroga should be drawn and quartered every time he tries to shift the blame or put the “guilt monkey” on our shoulders, we did not cause this mess. As for the Funny Fani asking for understanding, I’m sorry no can do, it is unfair to put the bulk of the financial load on household consumers using 12% of your output.

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