South Africa’s most successful companies vs Eskom and SAA – The glaring difference

South Africa’s state-owned companies are in bad shape, with Eskom facing years of load-shedding to keep the national grid alive and SAA embroiled in a painful business rescue process.

The state-owned airline was recently forced to cut a large number of flight routes to international and domestic locations in an effort to reduce costs.

Both companies have a number of common problems, including a bloated workforce, historical corruption, and gross mismanagement.

A trait which they noticeably do not share with successful South African businesses is stable and reliable leadership.

The massive churn rate at Eskom and South African Airways is indicative of their mismanagement and failure to perform.

In contrast, South African companies which thrive despite a competitive market and regulatory challenges have kept their strong leadership installed for many years.

We compared the CEOs of SAA and Eskom over the past five years with those of Vodacom and FNB to demonstrate the leadership crisis at state-owned enterprises.

It is important to consider not only the frequency of CEO appointments but also the qualifications and experience of the candidates.


South African Airways has failed in functioning as a competitive local airline, entering business rescue and cutting flight routes across the board.

Its mismanagement is evident in the number of CEOs the company has instated over the last five years, with only Musa Zwane and Vuyani Jarana occupying the office for more than one year.

A number of these CEOs also do not have relevant qualifications, as shown below.

Vuyani Jarana

Date CEO Qualification/Experience
November 2014 – July 2015 Nico Bezuidenhout Matric
August 2015 – November 2015 Thuli Mpshe BCom Business Management and Industrial Psychology, Postgraduate Diploma
November 2015 – October 2017 Musa Zwane MSc in Industrial Chemistry, MBA
November 2017 – June 2019 Vuyani Jarana BCom, Diploma in Telecommunications, MBA
June 2019 – Present Zukisa Ramasia Bachelor’s in English and Psychology, Secondary teacher’s diploma, Honours in Human Resources Development


Eskom has seen a staggering number of CEOs over the past five years.

Some were hastily removed from the position after their iniquity was brought to light, while others resigned due to the pressure of the job.

Many of Eskom’s CEOs also did not have any experience with the mechanics of a large power utility.

The exception to this rule were appointees like Matshela Koko, who worked his way up the company ladder since being hired as an engineer-in-training 15 years before he was picked as CEO.

Regardless of experience or qualifications, lasting a year as Eskom CEO is an almost-impossible feat – which was only accomplished by Brian Molefe.

Andre de Ruyter

Date CEO Qualifications
October 2014 – April 2015 Tshediso Matona Masters in Development Economics, Degree in Economics and Politics, Executive Management certificate, Certificate in Infrastructure Development
April 2015 – November 2016 Brian Molefe Bachelor of Commerce, Postgraduate Diploma in Economics, Masters in Business Leadership, Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme
December 2016 – May 2017 Matshela Koko BSc Chemical Engineering,
June 2017 – October 2017 Johnny Dladla Chartered Marketer, Harvard Business School Advanced Management Programme
October 2017 – January 2018 Sean Maritz BCom, Diploma in Datametrix
January 2018 – July 2019 Phakamani Hadebe Masters in Economics, MA in Rural Development, Wharton Business School
August 2019 – January 2020 Jabu Mabuza Matric
January 2020 – Present Andre de Ruyter LLB, MBA


In stark contrast to the state-owned entities above, Vodacom has had only one CEO over the last seven years – Shameel Joosub.

Unlike many appointees at SAA and Eskom, Joosub has extensive experience in his industry and has worked in an executive role at the company for years.

Vodacom is the largest mobile network in South Africa in terms of market share and customer base, and produces strong financial results year after year.


Date CEO Qualification/Experience
March 2013 – Present Shameel Joosub Bachelor of Accounting Science, MBA


FNB, one of the most successful consumer banks in the country, has only had one CEO over the past six years – Jacques Celliers.

Celliers is an experienced and qualified executive who has helped to grow the bank’s offering through both traditional and digital channels.

FNB offers some of the best consumer banking functionality in the country and has seen great financial success.

FNB CEO Jacques Celliers

Date CEO Qualification/Experience
January 2014 – Present Jacques Celliers Bachelor of Civil Engineering, MBA (University of Cape Town), Wharton Business School

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South Africa’s most successful companies vs Eskom and SAA – The glaring difference