Discipline needed at Eskom – chairman

Eskom needs to enforce discipline at its power stations and get its employees to follow standard operating procedures and do things how they are meant to be done. 

This is feedback from Eskom chairperson Mteto Nyati, who told CNBC Africa that a lack of discipline at the utility contributes to its poor performance and continued breakdowns. 

Nyati explained that the utility’s board has spent the past 18 months understanding the systemic issues facing Eskom. 

One of these systemic issues is the organisational culture, which Nyati described as a “culture that is unhelpful and dysfunctional”.

Other issues included the utility’s over R400 billion debt, criminality within Eskom, its unreliable operations and leadership instability. 

Nyati focused on the culture at Eskom as the most pervasive issue, as it is a leading cause of other systemic issues. 

In particular, he outlined that when he took over as chairperson of Eskom, there was a shocking lack of leadership abilities and managerial skills. 

“We found certain cases where leaders were not leading, and managers were not managing. That means we have the wrong people in those positions,” Nyati said. 

After making several changes, including appointing Bheki Nxumalo as the head of generation, Nyati said the utility is in a much better position to improve its performance. 

“Now you have a team which is going to build the culture you are looking for. A culture of accountability. A culture of discipline.” 

He likened Eskom, with its previous set of leadership, as having results similar to a child being raised without parents. 

“You will end up with chaos in that environment. It is the same thing when you have leaders who are not leading and managers who are not managing.”

“You need to bring back the discipline. You need to bring back how things are done properly and the following of standard procedures,” Nyati explained. 

Eskom chairperson, Mteto Nyati

A report from German consultancy group VGBE Energy highlighted the issue of Eskom’s poor working environment and its impact on performance. 

In particular, the report said that there is no reward system for good performance at Eskom, giving its staff no motivation to work harder and produce better results. 

“As a result of the continuous crisis mode, many employees are frustrated and demotivated,” the experts said. 

“In many areas, a working atmosphere characterised by indifference, ignorance and blame-shifting has been fostered.” 

Throughout their four-and-a-half-month assessment period, the impact of the current situation on the workforce was clear. 

Eskom’s employees had low morale and a lack of motivation, coupled with a heavy workload with long working hours in a demanding working atmosphere. 

Crucially, the experts also noted that Eskom has delayed or deferred many of its training programmes, resulting in a workforce with adequate skills but little improvement. 

“The competencies of the technical managers are at a reasonable level, but there is greater potential for improvement,” they said.

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


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