Finance minister tears into Eskom’s De Ruyter

Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter was given the luxury of performing a large amount of planned maintenance, but his strategy has not borne fruit, finance minister Enoch Godongwana told the Sunday Times.

“He was allowed to do planned maintenance the other guys were not allowed to do,” the paper quoted Godongwana as saying.

“We don’t see the results of that planned maintenance; he’s cut us out of electricity doing planned maintenance. The indication is that there’s more blackouts under him than ever, in the midst of a lockdown.”

Load-shedding under De Ruyter has been the worst South Africa has ever seen, according to data released by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

CSIR principal engineer Jarrad Wright published a chart showing the level of load-shedding from 2007 to 2021, showing that 2020 and 2021 were the worst years on record for load-shedding in South Africa.

The CSIR’s data also indicated that rotational power cuts under De Ruyter had cost South Africa over R120 billion.

Load-shedding in South Africa
Year Energy Shed (GWh) Eskom CEO
2007 176 Jacob Maroga
2008 476 Jacob Maroga
2009 0 Jacob Maroga
2010 0 Brian Dames
2011 0 Brian Dames
2012 0 Brian Dames
2013 0 Brian Dames
2014 203 Brian Dames/Collin Matjila
2015 1,325 Tshediso Matona/Brian Molefe
2016 0 Brian Molefe/Matshela Koko
2017 0 Johnny Dladla/Sean Maritz
2018 192 Phakamani Hadebe
2019 1,352 Phakamani Hadebe/Jabu Mabuza
2020 1,798 André de Ruyter
2021 1,914 André de Ruyter

A CSIR study published in 2020 showed that load-shedding cost South Africa R330 billion over the past decade.

The study showed that, during 2019, load-shedding cost SA between R60 billion and R120 billion.

Godongwana has said that the focus on fixing Eskom over the past 13 years rather than fixing South Africa’s grid was a mistake.

“One of the things we need to talk about is how do you bring power to the grid,” he told the Times.

Godongwana presented his medium-term budget policy statement this week and commended the recent bid window of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme.

The 25 projects in this window promise to generate over 2,500MW of electricity at 47.3 cents per kilowatt.

“This is the cheapest rate achieved in the history of the programme and is among the lowest rates achieved worldwide,” Godongwana told Parliament.

“Over the long term, creating a competitive energy market will help contain costs of generating electricity and support GDP growth.”

Godongwana reportedly declined to say whether he supports calls for the removal of De Ruyter, saying only that it is not his place to make such a decision.

André de Ruyter, Eskom CEO

The Black Business Council (BBC) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have called on the Eskom CEO to resign, but De Ruyter said he would not leave of his own accord.

This comes after De Ruyter and Eskom promised South Africa that load-shedding would improve after September 2021.

“Maintenance is being performed to improve the performance and reliability of our plants. The results of these efforts will start bearing fruit during the third quarter of 2021 when much of the reliability maintenance has been completed,” Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said in December 2020.

On the opposing end of the spectrum are the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa), Business Unity South Africa (Busa), and energy analysts Chris Yelland and Mike Rossouw.

They say that it is senseless for De Ruyter to step down or be forced to step down now.

“It does not help to exacerbate the ongoing operational crisis by creating a leadership and governance crisis at Eskom,” Busa said.

“This leadership has taken the tough decisions, shown remarkable openness and transparency and, critically, developed a progressive future-looking plan that will see the diversification and decarbonisation of the electricity supply system in South Africa.”

Mantshantsha said that removing De Ruyter would not stop load-shedding.

Sikonathi Mantshantsha
Sikonathi Mantshantsha, Eskom spokesperson

“André de Ruyter is CEO No 14 since 2007, you can count them all. All of those people have had to step down for one reason or another,” he said.

“The very first CEO who left because of load-shedding was Jacob Maroga in 2007 … All of his successors have had to leave for one reason or another, main one being load-shedding. Where is load-shedding today? We still have it.”

Mantshantsha said that you could call for the dismissal of the CEO and board, but someone still has to come and do the job.

“That is what De Ruyter is doing now,” he said.

According to Mantshantsha, Eskom could stop load-shedding tomorrow by returning the units it has taken out for planned maintenance.

However, he told the Sunday Times that the entire grid would collapse within a year.

“The fact you have to take out these units means you are actually reducing the amount of availability, and therefore increasing the occurrence of load-shedding,” Mantshantsha said.

“You must have maintenance now in order to buy more reliability in the machines. Each generation unit must be taken down for at least three to four months to do proper maintenance.”

Now read: Eskom’s new load-shedding terminology explained

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Finance minister tears into Eskom’s De Ruyter