Poor President Cyril Ramaphosa. Right in the thick of the ANC’s 108th birthday bash, he has to defend himself against accusations of being a “lazy president”.
Resplendent in his ANC golf shirt, fresh from his sonorous assurances to the party faithful that all is well with the ANC, he lashed out at critics who had accused him of laziness.
“I work long hours every single day of my life,” he said indignantly, “focusing on addressing our problems, and getting our country onto the right track. If I was a lazy person, I wouldn’t be in this position.”
Where, oh where, does one start to address the multiple non sequiturs and causal leaps in that little rant?
First things first. Mr Ramaphosa certainly seems to be a very busy person. Hardly a day goes by, that we do not see him on the news, making some or other sonorous pronouncement about a grave issue, assuring the party faithful and the country that it is all going to be okay, being “shocked” when he gets irritatingly caught unawares (like when Eskom lets him down yet again), or glad-handing a visiting dignitary, like Ethiopian President Abiy Ahmed.
But here’s the thing. Mr Ramaphosa clearly does not know the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. as an aside, this is a distinction that most politicians do not get.
Efficiency is all about doing things right, and let’s face it, Mr Ramaphosa is a dab hand at doing things right. He strikes just the right note when he says that “Eskom is too big to fail” and that “Eskom will be restored to becoming a company that can provide energy. We are not going to privatise Eskom, we are going to strengthen Eskom so it can deliver energy as it should.”
Here’s another one which goes to Mr Ramaphosa’s efficiency: “To achieve a far greater pace of economic growth, we will step up our investment drive, launch a massive infrastructure build programme, reduce the cost of doing business, and see to the creation of jobs and expand pathways for young people into the world of work.”
There are, of course, many other examples which prove conclusively that Mr Ramaphosa is highly efficient, but is that enough?
How about some effectiveness, or doing the right things?
Hint: you need both. It all starts with effectiveness; figuring out what needs to be done, followed by efficiency, doing those chosen things right.
But on the effectiveness front, it’s not as if Mr Ramaphosa, or the Eskom board or Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, don’t know what needs to be done at Eskom.
Even if they couldn’t figure that out for themselves (which I doubt), enough experts in the energy field have been telegraphing the required solutions for months.
Freeze salaries and benefits across the board for the next five years at least.
Implement a retrenchment programme, particularly at middle and senior management levels, to clear out all the highly paid passengers that occupy chairs in return for doing little to fix the ailing behemoth. The aim ought to be to cut staff by at least 30% overall, to reduce the utility’s embarrassingly high staff costs to justifiable levels.
Fast-track the diversification of the generation sector to include the Eskom fleet, public-private partnerships, independent power producers, municipal generators, and embedded generation on consumer’s premises.
Fast-track the splitting of Eskom into three separate entities: generation, transmission, distribution. The announcement was made almost a year ago, during the State of the Nation Address, and there has been zero movement on this issue.
Revisit all the coal contracts that came into being as the result of the finagling that took place at the height of the state capture project, and either terminate them if the coal is sub-standard, or renegotiate them to cut out the rent seekers who deliver no value, but syphon of millions at the utility’s expense.
There’s much more, but this will do for a start, because, Mr Ramaphosa, Eskom is not too big to fail.
What’s stopping Mr Ramaphosa from doing the right things, are the remnants of his predecessor’s populist state capture project, and his Achilles heel, the unions.
The calls for the removal of Mr Gordhan from office and the replacement of the entire Eskom board, predicated on the since retracted statement by Deputy President David Mabuza, that Eskom management had “misled the president”, make it quite clear that the fight back campaign for control of the ANC is alive and well, and crippling the power utility is clearly on the cards.
If Mr Ramaphosa has any expectation of an enduring legacy of his time in office, he’d better start doing the right things.