Time To Put A Whitey In Charge Of Eskom

Here’re 5 reasons we think it’s a good move
Whitey Basson.
Whitey Basson.
Ventures Africa

No. This is not a "the-blacks-have-messed-up-Eskom" opinion piece -- the corrupt there has been a veritable rainbow nation of malfeasance.

On Tuesday, former Shoprite CEO Whitey Basson told Business Day that "I will join companies and parastatals for free if I thought I could make a difference to South Africa".

One of the many burning platforms his predecessor has left to ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa is Eskom.

It is perched on the edge of insolvency as the JSE threatens to suspend bonds if the electricity parastatal does not publish its much-delayed annual results by the end of January.

The logo of state power utility Eskom outside Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant in this picture taken March 20, 2016.
The logo of state power utility Eskom outside Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant in this picture taken March 20, 2016.
Mike Hutchings / Reuters

And Eskom is drunk with corruption: it is captured by the Gupta family and its coal company Tegeta; it entered into illegal contracts of an estimated R1.5-billion with McKinsey and Trillian and its suspended CEO Matshela Koko is so bent, he could be a Russian Olympic gymnast.

The existing board and management team are no-hopers, so why not take Whitey Basson up on his offer of service to the nation that has made him a billionaire by scooping up his cut-price margarine and potatoes?

Here are five reasons we think Basson would be a great Eskom boss -- either as chairperson of the board or as an interim CEO.

1. He knows how to sell fast-moving consumable goods. You know from your electricity meter that there isn't a faster-moving consumable commodity than electricity tariffs. The days of cheap electricity are over and it is consumers who are feeling the pinch. Basson is a consumer champion as all you Shoprite customers will know.

2. He knows how to manage a supply chain. Shoprite is not only a grocery store -- it is one of the country's largest supply chains. Basson excelled at his job because he built a world-class supply chain. He squeezes wholesalers for the best prices and then passes these on to consumers. That's what Eskom should have been doing. As we now know, they were paying coal miners, infrastructure suppliers and newspaper publishers big money and passing the costs of these rents on to us.

3. He gets big builds done. New power stations have cost a fortune and run up massive delays as Eskom executives simply could not manage capital expenditure and project management. Shoprite is a common brand across the continent and Basson led its expansion out of South Africa.

4. He can detect bullshit. Basson's mate, the almost-former billionaire Christo Wiese, long tried to get the grocery guru to buy into Markus Jooste's crazy Steinhoff dreams. Basson steadfastly refused. There is a lot of bullshit going on at Eskom as the Financial Mail's deputy editor Sikonathi Mntshantsha reports every day.

5. He's so rich, he won't steal. According to Biznews, Basson has a nest-egg of R1.8-billion and in his final year at Shoprite, he earned R100-million. In fact, he could possibly recapitalise Eskom from his own savings, although we are not asking him to do that.


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