Ramaphosa plans big shake-up at Eskom — Report

The Sunday Times reports that the presidency has met with the public enterprises department about installing a new Eskom board.

These talks are expected to be finalised within the next week, after which president Cyril Ramaphosa should provide the names of his proposed replacement board members.

Last week Ramaphosa cut short an international trip, including an appearance at the UN General Assembly in New York, to deal with the South African power crisis.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan called an emergency meeting to engage with the current Eskom board.

One area of importance to Gordhan is the need to bring experience into key Eskom positions.

“For example, the power station managers are good people, have good technical education, but they do not have experience. Eskom is bringing in some experienced hands to mentor the younger managers,” said Gordhan.

“We have a programme to put such people in place and make sure that the right decisions are made at a power station level. Some of the best people that Eskom has trained are all over the world,” he said.

Insiders reportedly told the Sunday Times that when the cabinet met virtually last Wednesday, ministers decided that there must be severe consequences for the current state of Eskom’s power grid.

Ramaphosa’s cabinet ministers reportedly said the whole board and executive team must be sacked. However, the meeting was adjourned before the discussion could conclude.

Conflicting messages

This news comes after statements by Gordhan on Thursday assuring that progress was being made to relieve load-shedding.

Gordhan told Bloomberg that load-shedding would ease over the next few days, and the nation’s power supply would continue to improve over the medium term.

“We will have load-shedding for a while in South Africa, but not of the order that we’ve seen in the recent past,” he said.

This outlook was based on private power producers’ perceived “huge appetite” to invest in renewable energy sources that could stabilise the power grid.

Gordhan also said Eskom’s management has “done the best they can” and noted the importance of good leadership at the power utility.

“I think we’ve got to keep under constant review whether the governance and the management capability is of the order which would help us to meet the current crisis,” said Gordhan.

Blaming the global energy crisis

Meanwhile, energy minister Gwede Mantashe caused a stir last week when he suggested a strong correlation between load-shedding and the global energy crisis.

“When you explain the crisis to society, South Africans see themselves as an island. The energy crisis is a global phenomenon,” Mantashe told eNCA reporters.

“South Africans don’t accept that. They think it’s a South African crisis.”

This is despite the global energy crisis only beginning in late 2021, whereas load-shedding has been a challenge in South Africa since 2007.

The real reason for load-shedding is continuous corruptiontheftpoor maintenanceincompetence, and sabotage.

For example, Eskom CEO André de Ruyter said in April 2022 that the power provider had to write off R1.3 billion in spare parts at the Tutuka power station because they couldn’t be tracked down.

“We are also aware of collusion taking place between people with maintenance contracts, maintenance management, and coal suppliers in order to, for example, disrupt the operation of mills by adding very hard objects to the supply of coal into a mill,” he said.

Department of Minerals and Energy officials under then-minister Penuell Maduna also predicted the start of load-shedding in 1998.

“Eskom’s present generation capacity surplus will be fully utilised by about 2007,” they wrote in a 110-page paper titled White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa.

“Timely steps will have to be taken to ensure that demand does not exceed available supply capacity and that appropriate strategies, including those with long lead times, are implemented in time,” they warned.

“The next decision on supply-side investments will probably have to be taken by the end of 1999 to ensure that the electricity needs of the next decade are met.”

Unfortunately, this next supply-side investment decision was only made in 2004. Further delays at Eskom caused the construction of Medupi to only begin years later — just before South Africa’s power woes began in 2007.


Now read: Eskom’s failure in four charts

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Ramaphosa plans big shake-up at Eskom — Report