Give Eskom board space to do its work, says Ramaphosa amid calls to sack CEO

The new Eskom board should be given space to assess what needs to be done to improve the efficiency of existing plants and the effectiveness of its managers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the new Eskom board has begun a process of assessing the performance of managers at the power utility.
Image: GCIS.

This is what President Cyril Ramaphosa told MPs on Thursday when he was quizzed about the performance of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter.

“The new board has the skills, expertise and experience to undertake a thorough assessment of the current executive leadership at Eskom and take whatever steps they consider necessary to address areas of weakness,” said Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa was responding to a parliamentary question by EFF leader Julius Malema who wanted to know whether Ramaphosa had considered axing De Ruyter for failing to stabilise the power utility.

Malema asked what was the real cause of the blackouts. He also wanted to know whether Ramaphosa had considered making changes to the leadership at Eskom.

“Considering that the current CEO, André de Ruyter, has been at the helm since 2019, has he considered that a change in the leadership at Eskom may be needed to secure energy stability? If not, why not? And if so, what are the relevant details?”

Responding, Ramaphosa said: “The current group CEO was appointed on a five-year contract in January 2020. The group CEO reports to the Eskom board, which conducts performance reviews against agreed targets.

“The new Eskom board was appointed on 1 October 2022 and should be given the space to assess what needs to be done to improve efficiency of the existing plant and the effectiveness of the management and operators at all levels. This is a process that they have started to embark, or will be embarking on soon.”

In his follow-up question Malema told Ramaphosa that he did not answer his question relating to De Ruyter.

“With all due respect sir, I asked you what are going to do about the white man who is the CEO at Eskom? Don’t tell [me] about the board this and the board that, they just came in.”

Responding, Ramaphosa told Malema that had he listened, he would have heard the answer.

The assessment on management and the efficiency of the power stations needs to be done by a properly constituted body, he said.

“One of the reasons we have boards is that managements of entities, state or commercial, account to boards and in this case it is precisely the process that has ensued.”

While Malema may not be pleased with that process, Ramaphosa said, it was the fairest and best process.

“There is no state entity that has had as many CEOs as Eskom and if you start to count them they are almost 20 in the 28 years of our democracy.”

Ramaphosa said the board will brief the shareholder on their assessment, thereafter a decision will be made.

“Eskom has gone through enormous challenges and I have always said let’s give them the space to do their work. Where they fail, action does need to be taken but that is now a board.”

MPs welcomed the appointment of Eskom’s new board.