Eskom was once one of the world’s leading electricity companies. It was so successful that it was supplying more than half the electricity in Africa by the end of 1990.
Eskom was also a highly-efficient electricity producer, and in its 1994 annual report, it promoted the fact that it was the world’s lowest-cost producer of electricity.
Years of corruption, incompetence, and political meddling have, however, crushed this once proud institution and brought it to the brink of collapse.
This once stable, efficient, and well-run power producer can now no longer produce enough power to keep the lights on in South Africa.
Load-shedding, which can last for many hours per day, has now become part of daily life for all South Africans and is crushing the economy.
Leadership crisis at Eskom
One of the biggest challenges which Eskom faces is the lack of a competent leadership team and board.
Energy expert Ted Blom puts it down to the government insistence to employ politically-connected people instead of technocrats with energy experience.
This strategy has backfired spectacularly, and after numerous resignations, the Eskom CEO position has become a poisoned chalice which very few leaders will consider.
The massive churn rate of Eskom CEOs over the last decade clearly illustrates why it is seen as the most challenging job in the country.
Between 1985 and 2007 (22 years) Eskom only had 3 CEOs – Ian McRae (1985–1994), Allen Morgan (1994-2000), and Thulani Gcabashe (2000-2007).
Things rapidly changed after Gcabashe left office, however, and over the next 13 years, Eskom had 13 CEOs, interim CEOs, and acting CEOs.
This instability took its toll on the company; regular load-shedding, corruption, and mounting debt defined Eskom between 2008 and 2020.
The Eskom chairperson position is equally unstable, as there were six chairmen over the last decade compared with only three chairmen over the 20 years when Eskom was a world-class power producer.
Eskom CEOs – 1985 to 2020
The image below provides an overview of Eskom’s CEOs, interim CEOs, and acting CEOs between 1985 and 2020.
Eskom Chairpersons – 1985 to 2020
The image below provides an overview of Eskom’s chairpersons between 1985 and 2020.