Avatar photo

By Stephen Tau

Journalist


Good riddance or good grief? – De Ruyter’s gone, so what happens now?

While some welcomed De Ruyter's resignation, energy analysts question whether his successor will fare any better considering the lack of political support.


Good riddance, was the reaction from those who have been calling for either the axing or resignation of Andre De Ruyter as Eskom CEO.

The story about De Ruyter’s resignation broke just before 5pm on Wednesday.

ALSO READ: Eskom CEO André de Ruyter resigns

Whoever takes over has to hit the ground running

Speaking to The Citizen moments after De Ruyter’s resignation on Thursday, independent energy and political analyst Tshepo Kgadima accused De Ruyter of avoiding taking responsibility for what he described as an “imminent collapse” of the country’s electricity grid.

“We are now also hearing of proposals being made that the chairperson of the board should be the one taking over the reins at Eskom on an interim basis,” said Kgadima.

“Whoever is appointed to take over from De Ruyter now, will be too late to bring about any meaningful changes at Eskom. But whoever takes over will have to cancel all the Independent Power Producers (IPP) contracts, because they come at a cost that Eskom cannot afford.”

He said other decisions the new CEO would need to take within their first hour in office would have to be the cancellation all coal contracts, as well as the usage of diesel because “within a month from now, we are no longer going to be talking about the issue of the availability of diesel but rather the availability of plants”.

Kgadima stressed that what the power utility now needs is someone who will know when to pull the throttle, adding that there is no political will to fix the country’s electricity crisis, as there is no one in Cabinet who can comprehend the electricity crisis.

De Ruyter has for the longest time also been under pressure from Mineral Resources minister Gwede Mantashe, who recently likened him to a “policeman” who is focused on “chasing criminals”, without a grasp of the power utility’s challenges.

ALSO READ: Eskom agitates for ‘overthrow of the state’ by not dealing with load shedding – Mantashe

No choice but to go

Meanwhile, another energy expert Hilton Trollip said De Ruyter’s resignation was bound to happen considering the sustained attacks he has been under.

“Why should any person have to put up with such person attacks? I mean he (De Ruyter) has gone beyond his call of duty,” Trollip charged.

“De Ruyter has been under sustained attack from Minerals and Resource Minister Gwede Mantashe for some time now and when a Cabinet minister makes a statement such as Eskom is undermining the state, that makes it very difficult for the CEO of Eskom to have authority and to run trusted relationships in Government.”

Trollip says the fact that Eskom has had more than five CEOs since 2014 is also worrying.

“There is no company that can run if you change the CEO every year because when they (CEOs) start working, they assemble a team and build trust but government is destroying this, hence the huge instability in the management of Eskom.

“Government is responsible for appointing CEOs but the thing is if you look at Cabinet, the Eskom board and Eskom’s management team, all of them have to work as a team. You can’t have, for example, one Cabinet minister saying one thing … strong things, and another one saying some things, and then the President contradicting both of them.”

He says it is clear that Cabinet is not operating as a team, which made it difficult for De Ruyter to know where Government policy is coming from.

Another energy analyst Chris Yelland agreed, saying without a single public word of support from the president, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, or Eskom board chairperson Mpho Makwana after the attack by Mantashe, he expected nothing less than De Ruyter resigning in disgust.

What’s the way forward?

Trollip is of the opinion Government and the country at large now face the challenge of putting in place another CEO who must build an executive team and trust in it.

“That CEO is expected to walk into this environment where the CEO won’t know from one day to the next which direction an attack is going to be coming from, and I think this stops at Cyril Ramaphosa’s door.

“There is no country in the world that is stable and functional where you can have Cabinet ministers disagreeing with each other, contradicting each other, contradicting a President or if its a Cabinet or a Prime Minister and the next day being in their job… It can’t carry on.”

One union that has been vocal in calling for De Ruyter’s head, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), welcomed the news about De Ruyter’s resignation.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said they are overjoyed at the news that the “worst CEO in the history of Eskom’s existence” has finally decided to do the right thing and resign.

“When Andre De Ruyter started at Eskom, he claimed he could end loadshedding in 18 months.

“Unfortunately, we have experienced the worst loadshedding in the history of Eskom and De Ruyter’s gross incompetence is the reason we have such shockingly high levels of rolling blackouts,” said Jim.

He said whoever is brought in to replace De Ruyter must be able to instil confidence in the public that they have the ability to resolve the crisis.

“Furthermore, if we really want to see a difference at Eskom and at all other state-owned entities (SOEs), Pravin Gordhan must do the nation a favour and also resign, because he is an SOE wrecking ball and we have witnessed the destruction of our SOEs because of him.

“If Gordhan genuinely cared about South Africa, he must give us all an early Christmas gift and also resign,” Jim added.

Meanwhile, late on Wednesday, in a statement, Eskom confirmed De Ruyter’s resignation, saying he has agreed to stay for an additional period beyond the stipulated 30-days’ notice to ensure continuity while they urgently embark on a search for his successor.

His last day at Eskom will be on 31 March 2023.