A behind-the-scenes political battle is delaying the appointment of a new Eskom CEO to replace former chief executive Andre de Ruyter, who resigned nine months ago.
De Ruyter surprised South Africans on 14 December 2022 when he announced his resignation after three years at the helm.
He abruptly left the power utility in February 2023 without serving out his full notice period following an explosive interview about corruption at Eskom.
Eskom appointed Calib Cassim as acting group chief executive and started its search for De Ruyter’s replacement.
In April, Eskom said that it had made good progress in finding a new CEO and identified five candidates.
“We’ve been quite advanced in the shortlisting process for the next new chief executive of Eskom,” Eskom chairperson Mpho Makwana said.
Eskom also said it reviewed 150 potential candidates in its global search for a CEO and had identified “a clear number one,” with two others as joint runner-up.
However, five months after Makwana’s statement, there is no word on the new Eskom chief executive and where the process stands.
News24’s Carol Paton has now revealed that behind-the-scenes battles are likely to blame for the delay in appointing a new Eskom head.
Paton said the Eskom board provided Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan with a sole recommendation for a new CEO.
However, after weeks of no action, Gordhan informed the board that he would require at least three candidates to be shortlisted.
Gordhan’s spokesperson, Ellis Mnyandu, confirmed that three names were needed as part of Eskom’s Memorandum of Incorporation.
However, it sparked speculation that a divided cabinet and political infighting were the reason for Gordhan not appointing the shortlisted candidate.
Paton told Newzroom Africa that she did not know who the shortlisted candidate was. However, she narrowed it down to four people.
- Paul O’Flaherty – Former Eskom CFO
- Dan Marokane – Former Eskom head of group capital
- Ayanda Noah – CEF board chair and former Eskom group executive for distribution
- Vally Padayachee – NRS Association of South Africa chairman and special advisor to the Association of Municipal Electricity Utilities.
Bloomberg reported that the protracted search for Eskom’s new CEO has raised tensions between Gordhan and the Eskom board.
Eskom said its board’s governance and strategy committee is applying its mind and working towards a speedy resolution.
Not following the Eskom’s board’s recommendations
The Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, Ghaleb Cachalia, said Gordhan seems to be looking for somebody who meets his specifications.
He said Gordhan had received the recommendation from the Eskom board, which he appointed, but decided not to follow their guidance.
“Now, one can only infer from this that he is looking for somebody who meets his specifications, not the board’s specifications,” he said.
Cachalia added that the ANC government has previously appointed Eskom chief executives who have been disastrous and caused tremendous damage.
“You can look at the history and will see a horror story. Now, what is the minister up to? Who is he looking for? And why is he kicking this down the road?” he asked.
Cachalia said Eskom is in a very difficult position, which hurts the South African economy and its citizens. “It is untenable that the situation takes this amount of time,” he said.
“This is all happening while the lights are dimming. Now, you know, to coin a phrase, Gordhan must get a life.”
He added that finding the new Eskom chief executive is not just a question of having the expertise to do so.
“It’s a question of being able to stand up to political interference and to say thus far and no further,” he said.
“Now, we had a CEO who did that seven months ago. He got shown the door, effectively, and his life was threatened.”
Cachalia said De Ruyter’s experience would make many executives hesitant to take the position, liking it to a hospital pass.