ANDRE de Ruyter beat 142 potential candidates, including eight Eskom employees, for the position as the power utility’s new chief executive. Supplied

Johannesburg - Business Unity SA (Busa) has welcomed the appointment of André de Ruyter as Eskom chief executive, stating that he is stepping into probably one of the most difficult jobs in the country.

It said de Ruyter’s appointment is important for stabilising the power utility’s management, operations and finances and that its debt poses the single biggest threat to the South African economy.

Eskom’s debt now stands at R450 billion while it also has an ageing fleet of power stations and new plants that have been malfunctioning from the start, due to mismanagement and maladministration.

De Ruyter is replacing Phakamani Hadebe in January.

Hadebe left Eskom in July and de Ruyter beat 142 potential candidates including eight internal candidates.

The search for Hadebe’s replacement saw 17 individuals shortlisted and interviewed by a search agency while eight potential candidates withdrew as they did not wish to make themselves available, according to the Department of Public Enterprises.

Eskom’s board interviewed six candidates.

According to Busa, de Ruyter’s immediate priority should be effecting the plan to split Eskom into generation, transmission and distribution units, improving the efficiency and sustainability of its operations, restructuring its crippling debt and negotiating with suppliers to reduce costs and getting its customers, especially municipalities, to pay their bills.

The top ten defaulting municipalities owe the power utility over R17.6bn while Soweto debt stood at nearly R19bn at the end of June this year.

Political Bureau