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’I will not resign of my own accord’, says Eskom chief Andre de Ruyter after calls for him to step down

In a virtual media briefing, de Ruyter said he would only step down if Eskom's board sees it appropriate for him and some executives to resign. Sumaya Hisham, Reuters.

In a virtual media briefing, de Ruyter said he would only step down if Eskom's board sees it appropriate for him and some executives to resign. Sumaya Hisham, Reuters.

Published Nov 9, 2021

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Power utility Eskom's chief executive Andre' de Ruyter has announced that he has no plans of stepping down from his position, amid calls for his resignation.

The calls for De Ruyter to step down were made after Eskom continued to roll out load shedding across the country. On Monday, Eskom moved the country from stage 2 to stage 4.

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In a virtual media briefing, De Ruyter said he would only step down if Eskom's board felt it appropriate for him and some executives to resign.

"We've had no conversations in that regard so far, and I don't intend to resign of my own accord. I think what is important to emphasise is that there is this lovely saying in English ’you can’t flog a dead horse’. You can even go one step further and change the jockey on the dead horse, but that will not necessarily solve the problem," De Ruyter said.

He said due to the current situation in the power utility, he thought it was important to have continuity in management.

"Rather than to fall back to the trap that Eskom has been in over the past ten years, when we had eleven different chief executives, that lack of continuity clearly has contributed significantly to instability in the organisation. I believe it is important to continue on the path that we have taken. I understand there are frustrations. We are not obtaining our objectives as quickly as we would like to, but these frustrations will not be resolved by, I believe, changing horses at this point, or changing jockeys for that matter, he said.

De Ruyter said Eskom planned to lift load shedding on Saturday. "Eskom will reduce load shedding tomorrow morning from stage 4 to stage 3 at 5 o'clock. This will then be maintained until 5am on Friday, and then we will maintain stage 2 until 5am on Saturday, after which we should lift load shedding and return to normal operations," he said.

He apologised for the inconvenience load shedding was causing the nation.

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"We understand that this is a huge inconvenience to the country. We apologise for the negative impact this has had, not only on the business industry, but also those students who are currently writing their matric exams. We want to request the support and co-operation of everyone who is an electricity consumer in South Africa to play their role in reducing demand, particularly in peak hours."

De Ruyter moved the country from stage 2 to stage 4 within 30 minutes on Monday. He claimed that the decision was made because Eskom's generations system was unreliable and unpredictable, and not because the management team doesn't understand Eskom's system.

"Lack of maintenance over many years has rendered the system susceptible to being unpredictable. This is not a charge that should be laid at the current executive team," he said.

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He blamed some of his predecessors and said they should be called to account.

"They must come and explain why mid-life refurbishment, for example, was not performed at plants. Today we are reaping the fruits of those seeds that were sowed some years ago, but I think the team is doing what it can. We operate within a constraint where we relied on municipalities to abide by the rules of load shedding," he said.

De Ruyter said when Eskom announced load shedding stage 2, only the Buffalo City and eThekwini municipalities heeded the power utility’s call to reduce electricity usage.

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"It is rather unfair to blame Eskom management for municipalities which ignored those requests and not shedding load as required. Which meant then we had to implement stage 4 to protect those reserves we need to maintain as per best international practice to prevent a system blackout," he said.

Eskom's chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer said he didn't think the country was on the road to a system blackout.

"I don't think we think we are on a brink of total system collapse. We have one of the best system operators in the world. We manage the system incredibly well and diligently, and this will prevent a total system blackout,

"Regrettably, from time to time, we have to implement load shedding in benchmarking the way we operate our system. But we can confidently say with the way we run the grid, I have every confidence to say we can avoid a total system blackout,“ he said.

De Ruyter reiterated that if the 4 000 to 6 000 megawatts additional capacity was not added to the grid, there was a likelihood of more load shedding in store for the country.

Since the beginning of the year, Eskom has been under fire for its inadequate energy capacity. The power company has been struggling for years to provide electricity, and it said the grid remains severely constrained.

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