For 85 years, Eskom provided South Africa with reliable, affordable electricity. It was a well-run company which supplied more than half of the electricity in Africa in 1990.
Eskom even won the Power Company of the Year at the Global Energy Awards in 2001 and was commended for its efficiency.
Fast forward 20 years, and Eskom has become one of the country’s worst-performing state-owned enterprises that struggle to keep the lights on.
Over the last 14 years, Eskom’s financial and operational performance plummeted, and it is now selling less electricity than it did in 2008
Years of corruption, lack of skills, and political meddling at the utility have brought this once reputable institution to the brink of collapse.
One of Eskom’s biggest challenges has been its leadership – or lack thereof. It can clearly be seen in what has become known as the Eskom CEO revolving door.
Between 1985 and 2007, Eskom only had three CEOs – Ian McRae (1985–1994), Allen Morgan (1994-2000), and Thulani Gcabashe (2000-2007).
However, since 2007 – in just 16 years – Eskom has had 14 CEOs, interim CEOs, and acting CEOs.
Efficient Group chief economist Dawie Roodt said frequent CEO turnover could be “hugely disruptive” to an organisation. “You cannot run a company – any company – if you have a new CEO all the time,” he said.
A CEO does more in a company than give direction. A CEO is also a team leader who is supposed to take his team with him.
Without a CEO, a company will lose direction, and everyone on the team will become rudderless.
Roodt said the instability within Eskom’s top leadership could be seen in the company’s performance over this time.
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said he was also a victim of the incredibly difficult operating conditions of the power utility’s head.
“I would have liked to be seen as the knight on the white horse coming in and fixing all the problems. Clearly, this is impossible,” he said.
In his book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, De Ruyter explains that Eskom is an extremely complex environment with tremendous political pressure.
“After being Eskom CEO, I feel bruised, especially after being accused of high treason, told not to play policeman, and suffering an attempted poisoning,” he said.
Eskom CEOs from 1985 to 2023
Below is an overview of Eskom’s CEOs, interim CEOs, and acting CEOs between 1985 and 2020: