Eskom’s leadership debacle

Eskom is in the midst of a leadership mess, with the utility still not having a permanent CEO almost a year after Andre de Ruyter resigned and having to report to three government ministries. 

This is feedback from energy expert Mthunzi Luthuli, who told Newzroom Afrika that Eskom’s governance structures are “a dog’s breakfast”.

Luthuli’s comments come in light of reported tension between ministers regarding who is responsible for Eskom and who has the powers needed to bring load-shedding to an end. 

Earlier this month, the ANC said President Cyril Ramaphosa will allocate more powers to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa to accelerate efforts to end the nation’s power crisis. 

“He will be allocated more powers,” ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula said. “You can’t manage a sector or a crisis without powers.”

“The most important thing is to have power in order to be in a position to direct what needs to happen without asking from somebody else.”

This has reportedly raised tensions within the Cabinet, as the powers given to Ramokopa will have to be taken from another Minister, most likely the Minister of Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe. 

For Luthuli, this indicates the unnecessarily complex governance structure at Eskom and other state-owned enterprises (SOEs). 

Currently, Eskom has to report to three ministries – the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE), the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), and the Ministry of Electricity. 

“It is just crazy. It is a dog’s breakfast. We need one single point of accountability,” Luthuli said. 

He suggested that the Department of Public Enterprises be shut down and dissolved as it is unnecessary for the functioning of SOEs, particularly Eskom. 

Ramaphosa announced the department’s closure in his state-of-the-nation address in February.

Power utility Eskom, port and freight-rail operator Transnet and the other companies will then fall under the direct control of their line ministries. 

When the president announces the Cabinet after the elections, this DPE will cease to exist, and so will its ministry.

Luthuli also said the DMRE should be split into two ministries, one overseeing the country’s mineral resources and one overseeing energy policy. This would effectively take over the Ministry of Electricity. 

This would create one point of accountability for Eskom and speed up decision-making processes. 

Eskom’s governance crisis is compounded by the fact that the utility has been without a permanent CEO for nearly an entire year.

“We have a big leadership problem here. The previous CEO resigned about a year ago, and we still do not have a replacement. This is just unacceptable,” Luthuli said.


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