Friends & Friction: No more Tsotsis in the boardroom

2015-04-08 15:00

There’s no more a Tsotsi in the boardroom. Eskom’s former chairperson, Zola Tsotsi, tried to live up to his surname at the parastatal, but it backfired badly. He suspended the utility’s core executive team and, when pressure mounted, claimed he acted on the instructions of President Jacob Zuma.

But like Pontius Pilate, the president washed his hands of the matter. Of course, one of them is lying or, as the president’s spin doctor, Mac Maharaj, said, Tsotsi “misunderstood” a casual comment.

There you go, there is no smoke without fire.

If Tsotsi is telling the truth, then he was a clumsy assassin. He showed a lack of foresight. He never imagined how the ratings agencies would react and, when they dumped Eskom, he panicked like an inexperienced sniper in a burning hideout.

Unsure of how to escape the fire without revealing his position to the enemy, he could not wait for fate to take its course, so he tried to control the direction of the blaze.

He had been acting under the orders of Number One all along, he said.

He must have been hoping that would earn him strength on the Eskom board.

But Tsotsi is an engineer; he should have known better than to try to kill a fire with urine.

When President Zuma’s spin doctor repudiated Tsotsi’s claims, it was all over for him. His enemies on the board were calling for his head – but he wasn’t going to give them the pleasure, so he resigned before they could get to him.

Ever the one to blame others for his misfortunes, this time he named Lynne Brown, the minister of public enterprises. He accused her of wanting to get rid of him from the start.

Poor Tsotsi, he is in the dustbin of history now, probably feeling like a used condom that did the dirty work so others could have their pleasure.

As he will find out, there are no monuments in the corporate world. Once they are finished with you, they move on to the next one.

Ben Ngubane is now the main switch at Eskom. It’s hard to read him. He is an Inkatha Freedom Party stalwart, so probably knows first-hand how cold it is outside the ANC, as President Zuma once said.

He has learnt his lesson and so is likely to be compliant. After all, Dr Ngubane is a genuinely nice guy. People who know him say he was an excellent medical doctor. He left that to become a mediocre politician and, later, lousy diplomat. He sucked as chair of the SABC. Eskom will either bury him or resuscitate his image.

Ngubane must know his responsibility is not to the man who appointed him, but to give light to South Africa.

He has to do whatever he has to do to end the blackouts that are crippling our economy.

He has to restore faith in the people who work at Eskom and end the culture of victimisation that his predecessor cultivated.

His first task should be to get the utility back to work, and so should bring back the suspended executives and let them finish the job of getting the new power stations up and running. He has no time to waste.

For once, let there be someone who has a spine strong enough to stand up for the black executive.

Dr Ben Ngubane, are you up for that job?

Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive, an advertising agency

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