Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer said the change from being an influential industry leader to a consultant who only gives opinions and advice influenced his decision to leave Eskom.
On 17 July, Eskom announced it had parted ways with Oberholzer by mutual agreement. His official last day with Eskom will be 31 July 2023.
Oberholzer was on a fixed-term contract to support the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station’s long-term operation and Kusile Power Station projects.
He told Nuuspod that he had a discussion with Eskom’s acting chief executive Calib Cassim where he said the time has come to leave the power utility.
“I feel I can add more value from outside of Eskom. There is nothing sinister behind it. Nobody cancelled my contract,” he said.
“I discussed the issue with Cassim in a mature and professional manner, and that was the decision which was taken,” he said.
Oberholzer explained that he had served as COO since July 2018, and the change to becoming a consultant was not easy.
“As chief operating officer, you could mobilise many things. Suddenly, you become a consultant where you only give your opinion. That is difficult,” he said.
“I went from a person at the head of the industry to someone who gives opinions and advice.”
“That was a tremendous change. It was part of what started the thought process that I may look at something different.”
Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena said when they offered Oberholzer a new contract, it was important for him to stay on to ensure continuation.
Oberholzer’s former position of COO was made redundant by Eskom, with the Group Executive for Generation taking over those responsibilities.
The former COO position was responsible for overseeing all of Eskom’s operations within generation, transmission, and distribution.
Mokwena said Oberholzer left the utility because “it is now seen that it is no longer necessary for him to continue with that contract as Nxumalo has found his feet and will oversee the Koeberg long-term operation and Kusile projects”.
“It is important that Eskom has one person that oversees all operations within the generation division,” she added.
Mokwena further justified the decision by explaining that before Oberholzer became COO, there was never such a position at Eskom.
Previously, the Group Executive for Generation fulfilled the responsibilities of COO. Eskom is returning to this structure.
“Eskom is confident that since this structure has previously worked, it will ensure its operations are run effectively and that load-shedding is ended,” Mokwena said.
A big loss to Eskom – Dirk Hermann
Many stakeholders said Oberholzer’s departure was bad for Eskom as his experience was lost when the power utility desperately needed it.
“Jan Oberholzer is a modern-day hero and someone whose role will still be appreciated throughout history,” Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said.
“Oberholzer’s time at the power utility was characterised by constant major challenges. That is precisely why his knowledge and input were so vital.”
Hermann added that the former COO was a true Eskomite with deep technical knowledge which avoided an implosion at Eskom.
“He could stem the speed of deterioration at Eskom. It is a pity that it is now coming to an end,” he said.