Newly-appointed Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. Picture: Supplied

Johannesburg - The conversation and polarising debate around the recently announced new chief executive of Eskom was all wrong, Business Leadership South Africa’s Busisiwe Mavuso said on Tuesday night. 

It was announced this week that Andre de Ruyter would be the man entrusted with keeping the lights on at the power utility when he begins his tenure next year. 

His appointment has come with a mixed bag of reactions, with most unions unhappy, while some business organisations and political parties have welcomed the appointment made by the Eskom board after a stringent recruitment process.

He was implored to hit the ground running.

Speaking at a Gordon Institute for Business Schools event in Illovo on Tuesday, Mavuso said in a country where racial tensions were simmering, the country was having the wrong debate about de Ruyter.

“I have watched with interest how we are having the wrong conversation around the appointment of the Eskom CEO as a country. I would have thought we would want to know is Andre de Ruyter the right person to be leading Eskom. 

“Eskom is a sovereign risk to this economy today, if that organisation collapses, it collapses the entire economy. But we are having a conversation around, could we not find a black person - it shows me the myopia, short-sightedness and that we are failing to see beyond our noses, that when we think of Eskom we think of race. 

“We try to move ourselves towards a just and inclusive society. It is important that business leads on this, because we are sitting in a country where racial tensions and intolerance has just escalated in the recent past,” she said.

At the same event, GIBS released a summary of its Ethics Barometer, a study which seeks to measure performance at the workplace, build trust and drive success. The full report is set to be released in two weeks.

The ethics barometer surveyed more than 8000 people in 15 South African companies and found that employees believed ethics were important and that businesses took complaints of customers seriously and strived to fix them, paid their taxes, treated customers fairly and were committed to a regulatory authority. 

Some of the negative perceptions showed concern with organisational culture for issues including freedom to speak out at the workplace, unfair promotion practises, unfair pay and dishonesty between employee and employer. 

Mavuso called on the business community to reflect honestly in addressing concerns raised in the ethics barometer. She said the findings of the exercise should come as no surprise to corporate South Africa.

“What lengths are we using to engage with issues of how people should ascend the corporate ladder. If you are sitting in a country, 25 years into democracy, where only 14% of C suite professionals within the private sector are black Africans, yet in 2010, nine years ago, that number was 12%. 

“It therefore says, for us to achieve a corporate South Africa that is representative of the demographics of the country, it is actually going to take us another 100 years. It therefore begs a bigger question of how are we really engaging with these issues as corporate SA - are we doing it as compliance or is it an ethical imperative. 

“I would like to argue that if the numbers are showing what they are showing, it is therefore a compliance issue and it is not an ethical imperative,” she said.

IOL