JOHANNESBURG – Eskom’s new chief executive took charge of the struggling state-owned utility on Monday, embarking on the mammoth task of fixing South Africa’s power deficit and restructuring a debt pile that has crippled the national economy.
Andre de Ruyter, appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November, will oversee a government plan to split Eskom into three units for generation, transmission and distribution in an attempt to make it more efficient.
Ramaphosa is trying to revive growth in Africa’s most advanced economy and attract more investments. Eskom, which generates more than 90% of the country’s power, is widely regarded as the most serious risk to an economy on the brink of recession.
Saddled with unreliable coal-fired power stations, Eskom has struggled to meet the country’s power demand since 2007, with several bouts of severe power cuts since then. Outages last year dented economic output and shook investor confidence in Ramaphosa’s administration.
The country experienced further outages at the weekend, with Eskom cutting up to 2000 megawatts (MW) from the national grid on Saturday and Sunday due to a shortage of generating capacity.