Eskom’s crisis, which has seen South Africa plunged into load shedding, causing havoc with the economy, has led to calls for the power utility’s board and chief executive André de Ruyter to step down.
ESKOM’S crisis, which has seen South Africa plunged into load shedding, causing havoc with the economy, has led to calls for the utility’s board and chief executive André de Ruyter to step down.
“The leadership of De Ruyter has sold South Africans a dead cat. They promised that they will resolve the problem of load shedding in 18 months. They dismally failed to meet their set target. All we need is the leadership that will keep the lights burning. The electricity situation in this country has reached a crisis level. We need the government to provide leadership by declaring this situation a national crisis,” the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) acting general secretary William Mabapa said.
De Ruyter said he would not leave.
Leading the call for the Eskom board and De Ruyter’s resignation, Mabapa said: “Workers are losing their jobs and income. Small and medium businesses are suffering while some are closing. All this is happening while the economy is still trying to recover from the Covid-19 impact.”
At the same time, South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said De Ruyter and the board should be fired.
“They are useless. South Africa is suffering in darkness. No economy can survive if this continues,” said Vavi.
Vavi claimed Eskom is being deliberately mismanaged and defunded so that it can eventually be privatised.
Black Business Council (BBC) chief executive Kganki Matabane said they were overly optimistic when De Ruyter was appointed and two years later there was nothing to show except for the highest number of blackouts in the history of South Africa.
Matabane said the continuous blaming of the problem on “state capture” was disingenuous and tiring.
“The inability to stabilise Eskom will only lead to the country being downgraded, resulting in the increase in the already world-breaking unemployment rate, further economic contraction and scaring off international investors,” said Matabane.
Political analyst Ralph Mathegka said: “The question of Eskom has become very real and very emotional. It is a crisis and it’s not a surprise to hear calls for the resignation of the board and the CEO. But we all know that the problems go far back and actually those people are trying to resolve the problem. Whether they are succeeding, is another question.”
Centre for Sustainability Transitions, Stellenbosch University academic Professor Mark Swilling, went further and said De Ruyter’s resignation would be disastrous.
“That would serve no purpose and there is no evidence that he is to blame for our current problems. On the contrary, he has moved decisively to clean up Eskom.
“The current management team inherited a disastrous situation from a decade where in 10 years we had 10 CEOs. To call for another CEO who will take at least another year to understand the challenge and respond appropriately, will result in the worsening of the situation,” said Swilling.
Responding to calls for him to step down, De Ruyter, during a media briefing, said he served at the pleasure of the board and if it wanted him to resign it was one thing, but he would not be resigning of his own accord.
“I understand that there are frustrations that we are not achieving our objectives as quickly as we would like to, but these frustrations will not be resolved by changing jockeys now.”
De Ruyter said energy experts and others should be responsible and not make statements that South Africa is facing a total blackout. He said such statements were uncalled for and irresponsible.
Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jacques Moolman said while most businesses will do anything possible to avoid job losses, it is inevitable that some will have no option but to close, especially small and micro businesses that can’t afford alternative energy sources.
“Interruptions in power supply bedevil factory production processes, interfere with restaurants, disrupt remote workers’ computers, and generally irritate people going about their lawful business in all sectors of the economy. Only those who can afford alternate sources of electricity are relatively immune but even they must bear the additional costs,” said Moolman.
Lobby group Green Connection’s energy advisor Liz McDaid said: “Eskom is like a wounded elephant. Its injuries are many and it needs a lot of attention to survive.
“Load shedding is because we don’t have enough energy generation plants, which we have known for more than a decade.
“It is Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe who needs to take responsibility for South Africa not having enough power as he is fixated on coal and gas and other fossils.
“We need fast power. Renewables can sort us out in two years,” said McDaid.