To save Eskom change empowerment rules — former MTN and Microsoft boss

New Eskom board member Mteto Nyati believes empowerment rules are hampering Eskom’s performance — and they will have to go if the electricity crisis is to be solved, reports Sunday Times.

Nyati is one of South Africa’s most prolific tech CEOs, having served as the head of MTN South Africa, Microsoft South Africa, and Altron after starting his IT career at IBM in 1996.

He is in charge of the Eskom board’s new business operations performance committee, which works with management to optimise the troubled energy provider.

“It’s our responsibility as the board to remove any blockages or challenges in the way of the management team so they can focus on doing what they know best,” said Nyati.

Nyati used the example of procurement, which he said is inhibited by unnecessary empowerment rules.

“Procurement rules are not as agile as they should be, including rules which say you cannot use suppliers that are not local,” said Nyati.

“When the supplier of equipment is an international company … you have to use middlemen to satisfy the localisation rule.”

Nyati said there is no place for these rules at Eskom, given its precarious position.

“We need to remove costs from the equation. We need to make sure we are connecting directly with the people who have the knowledge that will get us out of this crisis as soon as possible,” he said.

Eskom staff complement from 1990 to 2021
Eskom’s power production per employee

The issue of affirmative action and BEE rules negatively affecting Eskom is not new.

Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann has argued that ill-conceived race-based transformation at Eskom had played a significant role in the utility’s downfall.

“We cannot discuss the current Eskom skills crisis without looking at the historical context,” said Hermann.

“Eskom was reckless in the implementation of a transformation programme, and since 2002, they offered packages to skilled Eskom workers to make space. In today’s money, approximately R1.8-billion was paid out.”

Solidarity is now trying to help Eskom acquire talent that had previously been neglected due to the decades-long focus on empowerment.

In early August 2022, it sent a list of 300 skilled engineers qualified to help Eskom turn around its collapsing business.

“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,” said Hermann.

Eskom accepted the list and, a month later, had appointed 18 people from it.

The state-owned power utility would likely have appointed more of these skilled professionals had it not faced a battle with political leaders over inclusivity.

Solidarity chief executive Dirk Hermann

Eskom announced in September 2022 that it was developing a digital crowdsourcing tool that would allow skilled professionals to submit their details online and help the utility solve its skills shortage.

“The platform will act as a skills database for Eskom to acquire additional expertise and to resolve its urgent business needs,” the utility stated.

It said the tool was inspired by several offers and submissions received from organisations and individuals — “including experienced engineers and technical experts.”

“In recent months, Eskom has received an overwhelming response to its call for skilled personnel to come forward to assist in rebuilding skills inside the organisation,” said Eskom.

“Since South Africa has a pool of skilled persons, crowdsourcing of these skills may offer a unique opportunity for available and willing citizens to support Eskom to resolve its business challenges.”

Eskom human resources head Elsie Pule said the platform provides an equitable opportunity for anyone willing to be considered for service.

While the platform remains under development, those who wish to be considered can contact Pule’s office via email at [email protected].

Now read: Goodbye Eskom — The truth about going off-grid

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To save Eskom change empowerment rules — former MTN and Microsoft boss