Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Jan Oberholzer. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer was reported on Friday as saying that reducing the workforce would “only” save R7bn a year and that in any event the utility does not have the money to pay off the retrenched workers.

This is a prime example of the muddled, illogical, lazy thinking that seems to blight our parastatals. Are our executives so captured by politicians that they cannot think for themselves? The truth is that Oberholzer, who knows better than anyone what needs to be done, does not have the courage or energy to stand up to his political masters and take and execute hard decisions.

The Eskom workforce is not some untouchable royal game whose interests can be prioritised above the needs of a country of 55-million. Why are our politicians and managers so scared of them? In the words of Oberholzer, “financially we are experiencing a crisis”, “we are the biggest risk to the fiscus, there is no doubt about that”, and “we must ask how do we make it right?”.

Well, instead of sitting there agonising, get on with it. Retrenching a third of Eskom’s employees would have several major benefits: shock the organisation into realising it’s no longer business as usual; facilitate clarity by getting rid of superfluous people (especially managers); and save a chunk of change.

It is unconscionable that Eskom is asking for bailouts when it is not taking the most basic steps, which are directly within its power, to control costs. The unions will cause merry hell for ages — there’s nothing new about this. Deal with it.

Doug Heher

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