Andre de Ruyter under attack

Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter is accused of misinformation about the reduced load-shedding and being out of his depth when running the power utility.

The accusations followed De Ruyter’s claims that the main reason for the respite from load-shedding in recent weeks was due to Eskom burning diesel “at a rate of knots”.

He told delegates at the PSG Financial Services Annual Conference that Eskom’s current diesel budget is R24 billion, four times more than when he was in charge.

“Therefore, if the lights are on, it is because they are pouring a considerable amount of money into diesel at a rate of knots,” he said.

De Ruyter also claimed that the lower load-shedding is thanks to his and Jan Oberholzer’s maintenance plan.

He explained that maintaining an Eskom generation unit requires around 18 months of planning, including budgeting and contractor identification.

“Jan and I put in place most of the planned maintenance outages, which are currently delivered and contributing to the somewhat improved results we are seeing from the coal fleet,” he said.

He added that Eskom is unfixable, and while it may still be around for years to come, the utility will never be restored to its former glory.

De Ruyter added that South Africans must abandon their nostalgia for when the country had cheap power produced by Eskom that was available 24/7.

He said the only logical outcome of Eskom’s reform and restructuring is that the company will be unbundled into three divisions – generation, transmission and distribution.

He explained that Eskom would inevitably become smaller as coal power stations reached the end of their lifespan and were decommissioned.

Gwede Mantashe takes aim at De Ruyter

Gwede Mantashe, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy

De Ruyter’s claims caused a backlash from Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati.

Mantashe said De Ruyter was out of his depth as Eskom’s chief executive, describing it as a “mis-appointment”.

News24 reported that Mantashe told voters during a rally in Tembisa that De Ruyter did not have the qualifications to lead Eskom.

“You take a lawyer and deploy him to a technical institution, and he won’t know the difference between wood and forest,” Mantashe said.

“When you do a mis-appointment, you destroy the institution and the individual’s capability because you deploy an alpha in an area that requires a fixer,” he said.

“It doesn’t mean the manager is not skilled. You are just using the skills incorrectly. You damage the individual, and you damage the institution.”

He added that Eskom now has an engineer leading the company, which resulted in improved performance and reduced load-shedding.

This is not the first time Mantashe took aim at De Ruyter for Eskom’s poor performance under his reign.

In December 2022, Mantashe accused Eskom, under De Ruyter’s leadership, of “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state”.

His accusations came amidst Eskom implementing stage 6 load-shedding as power plants suffered breakdowns.

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati hits back at De Ruyter

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati

Eskom chairman Mteto Nyati also dismissed De Ruyter’s comments, saying he cannot claim his work is behind the lower load-shedding.

Nyati explained that Eskom’s improved performance resulted from a plan put together 18 months ago.

“The plan was developed with management, presented to the Eskom board, and approved in March 2023,” he said.

The plan focused on accelerating and executing planned maintenance. However, it differed from the planned maintenance under De Ruyter.

“What has changed is that we partnered with the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs),” he said.

“When we take a plant down, we work with people with deep expertise about the equipment used at that plant.”

Previously, maintenance was done by people with limited or no understanding of the equipment at the plants.

Nyati said this was done over a year. “It was a very difficult period, and we had to spend a lot of money on diesel,” he said.

He explained that OCGTs were necessary to compensate for the generation units taken offline for maintenance.

The plan worked. The generation units returning to service were far more reliable than before, helping to limit load-shedding.

Nyati added that De Ruyter had left Eskom before executing the new maintenance plan. “He cannot claim credit,” he said.

“The key person implementing this plan, who was appointed in March 2023, is Bheki Nxumalo, Eskom’s group executive generation.”

“Nxumalo is the key person who was held accountable for implementing the new maintenance plan.”

Nyati added that the high diesel budget and OCGT use were necessary to support the big maintenance drive.

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Andre de Ruyter under attack