South Africa


Eskom suspends ‘apathetic managers’, signals ‘urgent culture change’

Eskom suspends ‘apathetic managers’, signals ‘urgent culture change’
Eskom suspended two power station managers on Thursday, 3 September 2020 in the wake of Stage 4 load shedding. (Photo: Gallo Images / Charles Gallo)

Eskom Group Chief Executive André de Ruyter suspended two power station managers on Thursday in the wake of Stage 4 load shedding, with the utility citing 'apathetic behaviour by some management staff'. It’s a wake-up call that the managerial incompetence which has long marred Eskom’s performance will no longer be tolerated.

“In response to the escalation of load shedding to Stage 4 during the past two days, the Eskom Board is working closely with the Executive Management to speedily resolve the matter … The Board is pleased that some units have since returned to service, but is aware that the level of failures is unacceptably high. Whilst it is true that the aging fleet is plagued by legacy issues of neglect and omitted maintenance and is therefore susceptible to unpredictable breakdowns, it is also true that the situation is exacerbated by serious issues of apathetic behaviour by some management staff,” said the Eskom statement on Friday.

“It is for this reason that the Board has come out strongly in support of Group Chief Executive (GCE), Mr André de Ruyter, in his action yesterday morning of summarily suspending the Tutuka and Kendal power station managers pending disciplinary inquiries. Further interventions are ongoing at the Kriel and Duvha power stations.”

“Apathetic behaviour” seems a diplomatic way of saying the managers didn’t appear to give a toss. So they have been told to vacate their posts. Finish and klaar.

The statement went on to say that three senior generation managers have been dispatched “to the sites in question (Duvha, Kriel, Tutuka and Kendal power stations) to provide leadership and oversight in person”. So there are new sheriffs in town who presumably will be reading the riot act to the staff at these stations.

Crucially, De Ruyter has board and political support for his actions.

“The Board and Executive Management have met twice in the past two days, with the Minister of Public Enterprises, Mr Pravin Gordhan, to interrogate the systemic causes of the load shedding and the measures being taken to repair breakdowns,” the statement said.

“It has been agreed that an urgent culture change and high-level competence enhancement across all 44,000 staff, which the GCE began upon his arrival, should be accelerated, promoted and strongly supported.”

This strongly suggests that accountability is finally taking root at Eskom and that the twin vices of apathy and incompetence will no longer be tolerated. Eskom is the biggest threat to South Africa’s economy and such moves will be widely welcomed. A lot of South Africans would no doubt like to see this ethos extended to other SOEs, the governing ANC, and vital but shambolic government departments such as Home Affairs. But Eskom is as good a place to start as any. DM/BM


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