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To insist on B-BBEE policies when trying to save Eskom is not clever

The idea of multigenerational guilt, as in the biblical “sins of the fathers”, hinders peace and progress. Ancestral sin cast a pall over some South African responses to Queen Elizabeth II’s death. It is also stifling attempts to solve our electricity problems.

Negative reactions continued during and after the pomp and pageantry of Elizabeth’s funeral, based on the UK’s colonial history with all its racist baggage. For detractors, there is no question of forgiveness, ever. “Sins of the fathers” are set to be visited upon generation after generation. Till kingdom come.

A similar lack of forgiveness is hampering attempts to save us from Eskom-induced dark ages. Eskom is politically unable to hire most of the 300 experienced personnel whose names were forwarded by trade union Solidarity in a bid to help rescue the national grid.

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Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter hinted at this during a weekend briefing on stage 6 blackouts. Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann was more forthright, telling Rapport newspaper that De Ruyter’s political bosses demanded the recruitment process be more “inclusive”.

They reportedly ordered him to create a platform – “a digital crowdsourcing tool which would allow people with the required expertise to submit their details online”. This after Eskom’s biggest trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) challenged Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s willingness to accept Solidarity’s suggestions.

The perceived racial composition of the two unions cannot be overlooked. Numsa is not happy to see a white-led union taking the initiative at Eskom.

Solidarity is on record as blaming Eskom’s race-based transformation policies for the exodus of expertise. “Eskom was reckless in the implementation of a transformation programme. Since 2002, they offered packages to skilled Eskom workers to make space. In today’s money, about R1.8 billion was paid out”, Hermann told Rapport.

Numsa accuses Gordhan of trying to reverse broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE). Eskom’s acquiescence to Numsa’s wishes is evident in a statement by the utility’s human resources department.

They want to, “develop a governance mechanism and a platform that will provide equitable opportunity to all those willing to be considered for service”. That approach won’t fix Eskom. B-BBEE, as practised by the ANC, has contributed to the ruin of state-owned enterprises and municipalities. It is a curse, economically.

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If De Ruyter is being ordered to adhere to B-BBEE policies, he will not be able to rescue Eskom, finish and klaar. Past racial and colonial injustices cannot be denied, overlooked or swept under a carpet of amnesia. But we cannot live in the past. Attempts to carry those burdens forever can limit our humanity and our chances of developing a prosperous nation.

Finding fault with a dead and buried old lady and her predecessors won’t make you a better person. Nor will it solve any problems. And to insist on B-BBEE racial preferencing when trying to save a tottering national power utility is not clever.

In the interests of all South Africans, Eskom should be recruiting the best people for each position, regardless of skin colour. To do otherwise is to invite ruin, and fulfil prophecies based on negative prejudices. Let not the sins of forebears destroy our future.

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/news/opinion/to-insist-on-b-bbee-policies-when-trying-to-save-eskom-is-not-clever/

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