Labour union Solidarity has sent a list of roughly 300 skilled and experienced power experts to the Department of Public Enterprises and Eskom to help the power utility fix its operational problems.
The development comes after the union had written to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan in May 2022, offering to assist with the shortage of institutional knowledge and experience impacting Eskom’s power station operations.
The minister responded in mid-July 2022, asking Solidarity to send its list of experienced individuals to his office and informing the union he had also notified Eskom of the offer.
Solidarity had been building the list since 2019, when it made its first offer to help fix Eskom and started collecting the names of willing individuals to assist with expertise.
Solidarity said the “turnaround agents” on the list had a collective 5,500 years of experience in the power sector.
Several had worked as qualified international project managers and were internationally sought-after specialists in their field.
They also possessed over 400 accredited qualifications between them, of which 14 are PhDs in engineering and related fields.
“This list contains some of the country’s leading experts in the field of power,” said Solidarity chief executive Dr Dirk Hermann.
“We are astonished, not only by the wealth of expertise and knowledge these individuals offer, but also by their willingness and eagerness to tackle South Africa’s power crisis.”
The union had to whittle down its list from more than a thousand experts and former employees who had submitted their names and details for consideration.
After initially planning to send a list of 100 people with applicable skills and expertise, it ultimately shortlisted 300 names.
The final list was compiled in consultation with specialists and considered the most urgent issues at Eskom.
“At the moment, the main problem area in our power grid lies with generation,” Hermann said
“For this reason, the largest percentage (around 70%) of the experts on our list are involved in generation, while 16% can be involved in distribution, 6% in transmission and around 8% of the experts offer commercial, management and other skills,” Hermann said.
Solidarity provided more details on how it established the list and how it could help during a media briefing on Thursday.
It explained the list is broken up into two sections.
The first is a group of 211 individuals with applicable skills and qualifications in the power industry who approached Solidarity. The second is a group of 100 people consisting of and compiled by former Eskom employees with relevant experience.
In building the first group, Solidarity deputy head Deon Reyneke explained the panel had assessed a 51-page tender document from Eskom requesting a supply of skills and focused on candidates with eight specific skills.
These were for engineering management, operating management, plant commissioning, outage management, project management, procurement management, materials management, and power station management.
The group of former Eskom employees is represented by former transmission specialist Hein Vosloo, who worked at Eskom for 23 years and completed his Master’s Degree in power fault lines, for which he received international recognition.
Another member of the Eskom group was Hertzog Verhoef, a mechanical engineer with more than 30 years of experience — including Eskom projects at Lethabo, Medupi, Kendal, Komati, and Kriel.
From the list of 100 ex-Eskom employees, 60 were identified as having the most relevant skills and experience for Eskom’s current requirements.
37 of these had sent through CVs, showing they had a cumulative 1,300 years of knowledge in power stations and related experience.
Vosloo said that several of the former Eskom employees were willing to offer their services at no charge.
Hermann said the pressure was now on the government to muster the necessary political will to enable the experts to help save Eskom.
He emphasised that ideological differences between various roleplayers needed to be put aside, and everybody needed to buy into the plan.
Hermann said Eskom already had a plan for how it would use the expertise and that formal contracts with measurable outcomes would be drawn up — with a key focus on transferring institutional knowledge.