A sense of entitlement

2010-01-29 00:00

JA, nee! Whoever coined this Afrikaans phrase must have seen something similar to former Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga­’s law-suit, which the electrical­ engineer slapped on his ex-employer last week.

It’s the stuff of legend.

Needless to say the man lived a lavish lifestyle, and the legal action has left the country dumb-founded. It has set tongues wagging. Even the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is up in arms with threats of rolling mass action if Maroga continues with his lawsuit.

But how did we end up here?

Let’s get some perspective.

In a civil claim filed at the Johannesburg High Court, the sacked CEO demands what he describes as reasonable damages (a whopping R85 million) unless he is reinstated to the position he left amid controversy last year.

He is suing his former employer Eskom, its chairman and acting CEO, Mpho Makwana, and Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan.

He is accusing the board of illegally conspiring to fire him under the guise of a voluntary resignation. His court papers bear testimony to the lavish lifestyle he thoroughly enjoyed at taxpayers’ expense.

Maroga, whose five-year contract was due to expire in 2012, is demanding everything he was entitled to when he was still the utility’s CEO, including future earnings.

This includes R14,5 million for the loss of salary, R45 million for incentives and R7 million for other benefits,

According to his claim, Eskom paid R1 million a year for a dedicated protector and driver for him, and a driver for his family.

This includes R500 000 a year for security at his Kyalami Estates home and R100 000 for general home support. This also includes R1 million a year for personal assistance, just under R100 000 a year for a petrol and a garage card for his Mercedes Benz C350 and R5 000 a month for medical aid up to the age of 80.

He is also demanding R3 million to cancel his housing loans. He has a home in the exclusive Kyalami­ Estates.

In addition to his monthly 2009-2010 salary of R430 833, Maroga’s claim details the R45 million in incentives he had expected Eskom­ to pay him during the remainder of his renewable five-year contract.

This is made up of an annual short-term incentive scheme performance bonus of R10,7 million, and a long-term retention bonus of R34,3 million for the period 2006 to 2012.

He also demands a sincere public apology for the strife and emotional anguish caused by the drama around his departure.

There you are.

Maybe I am naïve. But every time I peruse this claim, I ask myself one question: where do we get such a sense of entitlement? Why do we think we deserve these huge sums of money when we have not even performed sufficiently enough to deserve them?

What did Maroga do to deserve what he is demanding from the taxpayer?

Is it the blackouts that he subjected us to in 2008 which saw the mines shutting down and other businesses suffering irreparable losses? Does he want to be compensated for the billions that the economy lost every day during those blackouts? Does he want to be rewarded for the 135% tariff hikes (over three years) that he proposed during his disastrous tenure?

Hold your breath, because these tariff hikes are going to leave your economy in tatters.

Pray, because these tariff hikes are going to cripple businesses and households to such an extent that you won’t want to do business or call this country your home.

Those electricity-intensive mines will shut down again, and this time for an extended period. Kiss foreign direct investment (FDI) goodbye because your country will have become too costly to do business in.

What about those disastrous management decisions? This man wants all this money to feed his obscenly lavish lifestyle despite the chaos he left behind.

Why this entitlement?

This reminds me of Dali Mpofu, the former SABC CEO, who also left under a cloud.

The guy was paid R12 million to leave. I repeat, to leave, after a series of management blunders that left the public broadcaster literally bankrupt.

These experiences show us that there is no alignment between performance and reward at these state enterprises.

Why this entitlement?

In his court papers, Maroga details how the fallout happened as a result of Bobby Godsell’s meddling­ and incessant desire to micromanage him.

That’s not new. It often happens when the wrong person has been appointed to such a top position.

I do not suggest that Godsell was right in micromanaging the CEO. But perhaps he did it out of frustration.

As for this sense of entitlement: it’s sickening.

— Moneyweb.co.za.

• Sipho Ngcobo is the former deputy editor of Business Report and ex-managing editor of Enterprise Magazine. He has also written for such publications as the Sunday Times, the World Paper in Boston and was employed by the New York Times Group in the United States between 1989 an 1991.

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