Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday defended the surprise appointment of Andre de Ruyter as Eskom's new CEO.

PARLIAMENT  - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Wednesday defended the surprise appointment of Andre de Ruyter as Eskom's new CEO and urged stakeholders to give him a chance to do his job.

"He was the choice of the board," Gordhan said when asked about suggestions that De Ruyter was a compromise candidate, chosen to keep labour and political factions happy.

"Let's get behind this individual and give him a chance to do his job."

The minister added that there was a rigorous selection process was followed to find a successor to Phakamani Hadebe, who left the loss-making power utility at the end of July, citing health concerns.

De Ruyter comes to Eskom from Nampak and will have the task of overseeing a make-or-break restructuring to rein in Eskom's cost and bring its debt under control while improving efficiency.

Eskom has R441 billion in debt and its inability to service it without successive bailouts from government is seen as the single biggest threat to the South African economy.

Andre de Ruyter. Photo: Nampak

Gordhan also defended the blueprint for the unbundling of Eskom's generation, transmission and distribution units, which he unveiled in late October. Critics have suggested the plan did not go far enough to bring competition into the energy sector because the transmission arm, which will be the first to be split off, will remain the property of the Eskom holding company.

He said authors of the plan had been informed by international precedent in this regard, and the new transmission entity will also purchase from independent producers as its primary selection criteria will be the lowest cost.

- African News Agency (ANA)