Government should get out of the way to fix Eskom – Andre de Ruyter
Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter wrote in his new book that the most useful thing government can do to fix Eskom is to get out of the way of the people with a clear plan to solve the problem.
In his new book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, De Ruyter reflects on his time as Eskom’s CEO and gives readers a behind-the-scenes look at widespread corruption at the power utility.
The former CEO is particularly scathing towards the ANC in his book. He said the ruling party’s policies were stifling Eskom’s recovery and detailed its role in corruption at the utility.
De Ruyter said in the chapter, Looking at the Scoreboard, that “more regulation, more oversight and more bureaucracy have seldom solved anything”.
However, he added, “Sadly, it seems that this is the only solution the ANC can come up with”.
De Ruyter’s comments echo those of energy expert Chris Yelland, who said South Africa does not have an energy crisis but a governance crisis.
Yelland commended the government’s allowance for private electricity generation and the solar tax breaks it announced in the 2023 Budget Speech.
However, he said what is required now is for the government to get out of the way and allow the private sector to invest in electricity generation.
What the private sector wants, according to Yelland, is policy certainty and a stable macroeconomic environment.
De Ruyter also described in his book how “repeated policy flip-flops” stymied his and Eskom’s efforts to fix the utility and get rid of load-shedding.
In particular, De Ruyter mentioned the government exempting Eskom from the Public Finance Management Act and then withdrawing the exemption a day later.
He also criticised Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s announcement that he wishes to extend the life of “obsolete coal-fired power stations”.
This announcement “[flies] in the face of South Africa’s emission targets, international commitments and the deal signed with lenders at COP26”.
Professor Mark Swilling from the Centre for Sustainability Transitions at Stellenbosch University said Ramokgopa’s flip-flopping had created uncertainty around the government’s just energy transition strategy.
Swilling said this uncertainty could scare potential investors looking for certainty and long-term investments.
De Ruyter also questioned the necessity of the minister’s role when there are already five government departments involved in Eskom’s operations – the Department of Public Enterprises, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and National Treasury.
“The addition of yet another minister to oversee Eskom […] merely adds to the complexity of the most difficult job in the country and doesn’t help to resolve the most pressing crisis in South Africa today,” said De Ruyter.