Eskom bleeding skills

One of Eskom’s largest power stations, Kendal, is significantly underperforming, largely due to a haemorrhaging of skills at the power utility.

This is according to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, who said Kendal has been identified as one of six priority stations that are grossly underperforming.

He told Newzroom Afrika that the power station is performing at 36%, significantly lower than the 55% target for the current financial year.

Only half of the power station’s units are currently operating, and the entire station was recently not operating.

“It is nowhere close to where we want to be. By their own admission, I think we can do better,” he said, adding that he has met with the power station’s employees to better understand its challenges.

“These are issues that are undermining the ability of Kendall to go back to its glory days. It was one of the best-performing power stations. The level of deterioration is catastrophic.”

He said the station’s employees and management identified a lack of skills as one of its biggest challenges.

“There’s been a significant haemorrhaging of skills. I think some of the most skilled and seasoned people have left the power station,” he said.

Earlier this year, Ramokgopa lamented that Eskom struggles to recruit skilled employees because working at the utility has lost its prestige.

Ramokgopa told eNCA that there is a stigma that everyone who works at Eskom is corrupt or incompetent, making it less prestigious to be associated with the company. 

He said this perception follows employees outside of work, affecting how they are viewed in public spaces like malls or schools. 

This is a problem because Eskom has lost many skilled engineers and technicians over the past few years – people needed to combat load-shedding.

“The best way of dealing a decisive and fatal blow to naysayers is the resolution of load-shedding, and I’m quite confident that the men and women who are the exceptionally qualified PhD nuclear scientists are the ones who are going to help us to resolve this,” he said.

Kendal Power Station

The minister’s concerns were corroborated by German consultancy group VGBE Energy, which the National Treasury commissioned to analyse the performance of Eskom’s coal-fired power plants and recommend how they can be improved.

Their report found that Eskom’s leadership competencies are not at the required level due to the delay and, in some cases, scrapping of leadership development programmes and employee training. 

They pointed to several overarching issues, such as Eskom’s complex management system, inadequate maintenance, and low staff morale, as reasons why the utility’s performance has declined. 

Another factor is the general incompetence and lack of ability to implement theoretical knowledge in practice. 

Throughout their assessment of Eskom employees, the German experts noticed the impact of low morale, lack of motivation, and a heavy workload with long working hours on Eskom’s staff.  

“The competencies of the technical managers seem to be at a reasonable level, but there is greater potential for improvement,” the report read. 

“We repeatedly noticed that there is a high degree of theoretical knowledge. However, the complex management system makes its application very difficult.” 

“The management system with its governance, structure and processes is dysfunctional and too complex.”


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