Bobby Godsell has resigned as Eskom chairman, the public enterprises ministry said on Monday, in a move that has been met with widespread dismay. Jacob Maroga, pictured, was back in the office as CEO of the power utility, in spite of an announcement last week by Godsell that he had resigned. “He’s resumed his duties as chief executive,” said spokesman Andrew Etzinger.
Godsell’s resignation was a “big blow” that could put off foreign investors concerned about political intervention, economists said. “I think it is quite a big blow that he has resigned,” said Investment Solutions economist Chris Hart.
“It appears as though the authority of the board is being undermined. The corporate governance at Eskom seems to have been rocked very badly.”
Godsell announced to Eskom staffers on Thursday that Maroga had resigned but, shortly after that, Godsell called off a media briefing on the matter. Confusion reigned when the ANC Youth League said Maroga had not quit, until Eskom told Sapa on Monday morning that Maroga was indeed still at the helm of the state utility.
Around the same time, public enterprises spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi confirmed Godsell had resigned.
Kruger International economist Ulrich Joubert said: “The implication is that there was some political intervention. It will be a serious pity if this is the case [as] it would raise a few eyebrows in the investment world. Normally, financial markets do not like political intervention.”
The Star newspaper reported on Monday that President Jacob Zuma had met with Godsell on Sunday afternoon, in an apparent departure from his stance not to interfere in state enterprises.
Public enterprises minister Barbara Hogan last week denied Zuma had interfered in the Maroga saga.
Earlier this year, the presidency distanced itself from a bid by Transnet executive Siyabonga Gama to get his job back. “The governance of state enterprises as a whole may well have been affected badly [by Godsell’s resignation]. It appears as though the authority structures have been usurped,” Hart said.
“Where you have a board that reports to cabinet, that is accountable to parliament, that kind of authority structure seems to have been undermined.
“We are not receiving credible explanations for this. It seems the board has been paralysed by the machinations of the past few weeks,” said Hart.
Vytjie Mentor, the chairwoman of parliament’s public enterprises committee, on Friday criticised the board’s handling of the matter. Maroga has been head of Eskom in turbulent times marked by rolling black-outs, coal procurement shortages and record-high electricity tariff increases. — Sapa