DURBAN - POLITICAL analysts, economists, civil and social activists have questioned Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter’s capacity to rescue the energy supplier from its current crisis, which has seen South Africans plunged into rolling blackouts.
This is after De Ruyter told a media briefing on Tuesday that Eskom was a “dead horse”, and forcing him out would not solve the entity’s problems.
Advocacy body Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group (PMBEJD) said De Ruyter’s comment amounted to an admission that he was out of his depth when it came to leading the energy supplier.
The group’s Julie Smith said power supply was one of the key pillars in the economic system that should not be allowed to be ruined.
“When a person in a position like his makes a statement like that, what does that say about his capacity to run Eskom?” asked Smith. She expressed worry about the power utility’s future, but stressed that Eskom should not be allowed to collapse or be privatised.
“Let us face it, Eskom’s leadership is not going to get us out of the mess, but the power utility is the equity for the people of the country, ” Smith said.
University of Johannesburg-based economist Professor Daniel Meyer said De Ruyter had been at the helm for nearly 18 months, with little success.
“He does not have a good track record, and communication from
Eskom is also poor,” said Meyer.
He said De Ruyter and the chief operations officer were lacking the specialist skills in the energy sector that were required to run Eskom efficiently.
“Eskom is a sinking ship and it is important for the government to provide much-needed support to the utility because of its importance to the country’s economy,” Meyer said.
University of Zululand’s Professor Sipho Seepe said De Ruyter’s arrival and continued stay at the power utility was puzzling given his performance in other companies. He noted that he had failed to meet targets at Nampak.
“The man was parachuted in from Nampak, and now despite the rolling blackouts he still remains at the helm of the power utility. The man has demonstrated the highest level of incompetence,” said Seepe.
He said sentiment coming from other quarters was that De Ruyter would have been forced to resign if he were black, and stressed that the embattled chief executive was enjoying protection from the country’s top political office.
“It is a matter of public record that during the period of both Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, the country did not experience as much load shedding.”
The factional battles in the ANC, Seepe said, also ensured that De Ruyter remained protected.
“If you look at the comments from ministers, you will see that only Gwede Mantashe has criticised how things are run at Eskom, others have either shown support to President Cyril Ramaphosa, or have just kept quiet,” he said. This was in reference to Mantashe’s reported criticism of load shedding this week, and his remark that there was nothing he could do. The remark was seen by some as an indication that only Ramaphosa could fire De Ruyter.
Regarding the dead horse remark , Seepe questioned his continued stay at the power utility. “Why do you insist on riding a dead horse and still expect to benefit from it? He has no business riding a dead horse.”