The recent appointment of Andre de Ruyter to the position of Eskom CEO has been met with mixed emotions, particularly by trade unions and fervent supporters of the Radical Economic Transformation (RET) agenda.
Although the African National Congress (ANC) has welcomed the appointment of de Ruyter, at a time when Eskom is teetering on the brink of both operational and financial collapse, union allies have been less hospitable.
Andre de Ruyter tasked with turning Eskom around
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which currently has its hands full with a particularly nasty South African Airways (SAA) strike, condemned the appointment of de Ruyter. The union’s general secretary, Irvin Jim, who has vehemently opposed Eskom’s unbundling strategy, alleging that government is in the process of privatising the power utility, said of de Ruyter’s appointment:
“This constitutes a setback when it comes to the transformation agenda in the country.
This is an insult to blacks and Africans in this country, that – to date – in this country since the democratic breakthrough, we do not have competent black women and black African who can occupy such a position.”
Irvin Jim issues veiled threat
Jim, who has previously spearheaded severely disruptive industrial action at Eskom, warned:“We regard this as nothing less than a provocation.”
The ruling ANC, despite internal conflicts along loyalist lines, has offered de Ruyter words of encouragement and support. De Ruyter, who will officially begin his tenure at the embattled state owned enterprise in mid-January 2020, is tasked with dragging Eskom out of its self-imposed depression.
Eskom’s operational failures, emanating from poor maintenance schedules, mismanagement and corruption – manifesting as national load shedding – have been compounded by dire financial straits.
Eskom’s poor predicament
In the 2018/19 financial year, the utility recorded a staggering R21 billion loss. It’s also owed in excess of R20 billion by defaulting municipalities. Government, which has essentially kept Eskom afloat by way of exorbitant bailouts, has finally agreed to review and restructure the utility’s entire business model.
De Ruyter, who is currently the CEO of NAMPAK – Africa’s largest packaging company – will be expected to further the contentious unbundling strategy, which will see Eskom split into three separate entities; generation, transmission and distribution.
Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, who has also welcomed de Ruyter’s appointment, recently confirmed that the generational pillar of Eskom would be the first to be unbundled in the New Year. This would see power stations operating independently and competing against one another in an effort to break the current monopoly