South Africa

Ramaphosa is a good man, not a good leader – Andre de Ruyter

Former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said that he “found the President impressive” and very charming. However, he lacked decisive leadership and resembled a “genial country club manager”.

These comments were made in De Ruyter’s new book, Truth to Power: My Three Years Inside Eskom, in which he exposes widespread corruption and incompetence at the power utility.

De Ruyter said he only had his first one-on-one meeting with the President after 18 months into his tenure as Eskom CEO.

Ramaphosa’s personal residence reminded De Ruyter of nouveau riche Afrikaners’ houses – “It was built to impress rather than to be liveable”.

The President took the “Douw Steyn approach”, De Ruyter said.

Aside from detailing Ramaphosa’s house, De Ruyter said, “Overall, I found the President impressive, he grasps detail very quickly” and “asked questions that spoke of insight”.

“In person, very charming – someone you could have a beer and a lekker kuier” with. However, Ramaphosa is not a great orator and does not have much charisma.

Ramaphosa “projected the image of a statesman firmly in charge of the facts and issues, in a way that outshone his cabinet ministers”.

However, De Ruyter “could not escape the conclusion that in running the country, he was more of a genial country-club manager than a decisive leader”.

Ramphosa allows each minister to “cook their own broth as far as policymaking is concerned”.

The President is handicapped by in-fighting amongst the African National Congress (ANC), and his solution was to be “a leader who wants to be all things to all men” rather than be decisive.

Concerning ongoing strikes at Eskom, which crippled the utility’s performance in 2022, De Ruyter said that “to the surprise of no one, Ramaphosa did not really tackle the problem forcefully”.

“As always, the President was managing the competing interests in the ANC alliance”.

De Ruyter has some sympathy for the difficulties Ramaphosa faces in leading the ANC and the country, particularly managing the competing interests of his cabinet ministers.

“I believe that Ramaphosa gets far too little credit for implementing the [Energy Action] Plan”, De Ruyter said.

The former Eskom CEO refers to this Plan as the most significant structural reform in the last decade, with the electricity market being effectively liberalised.

When it came to Ramaphosa’s business acumen, De Ruyter is far more ruthless.

While Ramaphosa is regarded as a successful businessman, he “is not someone who has hands-on experience of building an enterprise from the bottom up”.

“Shrewd corporate dealmaking, lubricated by favourable black empowerment legislation, built his fortune”, according to De Ruyter.

This is partly why the ANC fails to understand what moves investors to invest in South Africa. Strict procurement and labour laws “poison the well and have them heading for the hills”.


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