Ben Ngubane. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Ben Ngubane. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

The falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world." These words, written by Irish poet WB Yeats could easily have been describing the parlous state of SA’s state-owned companies in the 21st century — Eskom, in particular.

The utility’s stubborn refusal to take action against its acting CEO Matshela Koko — who has been accused of numerous irregularities, including awarding R1bn worth of tenders to a company in which his stepdaughter was a director — implies a collapse of accountability at the heart of government business.

Last week, former finance minister Trevor Manuel confronted public enterprises minister Lynne Brown and Eskom chairman Ben Ngubane at the World Economic Forum, asking how it was that Koko hadn’t been suspended.

Ngubane’s response to Manuel was woeful. Rather than dealing with the substance of the claim, he instead launched into an impassioned diatribe, implying state-owned firms were being demonised simply because they were black-led.

Remarkably, Ngubane said he hadn’t seen a widely broadcast TV interview last year in which Koko appeared to have been caught lying. It was further depressing evidence that those tasked with exercising oversight of our state companies, just aren’t up to the job.

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