South Africa

New Eskom board unlikely to change anything

Pravin Gordhan

The government plans to restructure Eskom’s board to address an energy crisis, but experts said it would not change much.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan informed the company’s management that a review had been finalized and the board would be “reconstituted and restructured”.

“Government will soon deliberate on the reconstitution of a new and restructured Eskom board, and an announcement will be made in due course,” Gordhan said.

Eskom currently has eight members on its board, about half the number of seats it’s had in the past. The current board was appointed in 2018.

The announcement follows severe pressure on President Cyril Ramaphosa to take drastic steps to end record power outages hobbling economic growth.

Ramaphosa is scheduled to address lawmakers on Thursday about the government’s steps to address the blackouts.

The latest round of blackouts started on 6 September, with electricity being cut for hours at a time daily.

Rolling blackouts caused by the unreliability of Eskom’s poorly maintained and ageing plants first began in 2008.

The government has faced calls by opposition parties, including the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), to fire Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter for failing to stem the outages.

An Eskom spokesman didn’t immediately answer a call or text message seeking comment.

Connie Mulder, the head of Solidarity’s research institute

Many experts highlighted that changing the board is a vanity project that is unlikely to address the cause of blackouts in South Africa.

The blackouts are not a result of poor strategic direction and purpose, which are the main functions of a board. Operational problems are to blame.

If the government is serious about ending load-shedding, it should allow Eskom’s management to address the problems without political interference.

The problems include politicizing the state utility, poorly skilled staff, a lack of training, affirmative action, poor budgeting, and corruption.

Connie Mulder, the head of Solidarity’s research institute, said virtue signalling in the form of a new board alone would do little to change things at Eskom.

More important is a change in the directive to effectively manage and repair an ageing coal fleet whilst transitioning out of the state-owned, centralized electricity-generation model.

“The future of energy in South Africa lies in decentralized, privatized generation and distribution,” Mulder said.


Top JSE indices