maroga saga a black mark

Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga announced the proposed Eskom tariff rate hike of 45% per annum over the next three year a grand total 135%
Pic Martin Rhodes
© Business day
Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga announced the proposed Eskom tariff rate hike of 45% per annum over the next three year a grand total 135% Pic Martin Rhodes 2009/10/13 © Business day

SO NOW Jacob Maroga's resignation has been confirmed.

The circus starts all over again and in the next few days we are all going to hear how a board of eight black people, five whites and one Korean has been racist. Listening to Maroga's supporters, you would think being black is a limitation.

It is they who have a heightened sense of victimhood and see their blackness as an obstacle.

This outlook is no different to that of the racist colonisers of Africa who basically believed that black Africans can never amount to anything because they are black.

By supporting Maroga blindly, they are saying he is not capable of answering questions about the management of the electricity utility and thus needs to use his race as a bulwark.

In his depiction of black people, Joseph Conrad in his epic novel Heart of Darkness paints a picture of black people who are backward and savage. This novel, set in the Congo and published in 1902, was read and taught widely, thus securing its place in the annals of great literature.

I am not surprised it gained favour with the Western world because the presentation of black people as ignorant inhabitants of the dark continent was confirming something that was already active in their racist minds.

Scholars seemed to have been put in some sort of fiendish spell by a book that was explicitly prejudicial and failed to explore a central pre-occupation of literature -"otherness".

What does it mean to be someone and something else other than what I am and what I know? Years later, in 1977, the giant of African literature, Chinua Achebe, put Conrad in his place and rightly labelled him a "bloody racist".

The danger of racist dogma is that it arrives at untested conclusions about a group of people, therefore failing to recognise the diversity in outlook, the richness of culture, the plurality of voices even among people of the same colour.

Conrad fails to explore the complexity of human life, the characteristics that are unique to every individual and instead posits race as the only determinant of success or failure.

By claiming Maroga failed because he is black his supporters are inadvertently affirming that he does not have the mental and intellectual acumen to respond to the questions about his leadership and management of the state enterprise. These questions arose from internal Eskom documents and if these are false then the solution is to set the record straight, provide the nation with a different version and not invoke racism.

How is it possible for Maroga to have risen through the ranks of Eskom for 10 years - he joined the company in 1995 before becoming CEO in 2005 - and not once identify this racism? And who is racist - former chairman of the board Bobby Godsell or the majority black board itself?

He might very well be a victim of malicious, power-hungry colleagues, a hostile board. The options are endless, but why jump to racism?

Maroga might not have been responsible for lack of action that happened many years ago and culminated in the blackouts that plunged the country into darkness and cost the economy billions.

The high demand for electricity and the scarce supply may be matters beyond his control and the exorbitant hikes e the only way out. He might not be the architect of this recession that makes survival strategies even more precarious but, as CEO, it is his responsibility to extract the company from the morass.

The question is, did he come up with the best strategy to respond to the above challenges? In the battle for ideas and the complex world of corporate governance, can a black man ever make a bad decision that catapults him from the top to the pits?

As an intelligent, educated man, Maroga should be standing up, selling his turnaround strategy and marketing the strength of his leadership. If it is a feasible, brilliant strategy, the results will speak for themselves and this would prove that his detractors had nothing on him.

Hiding behind race does more to expose one's inferiority complex than any insult from a racist.