South Africa


De Ruyter’s resignation sparks political call for State of Disaster at Eskom

De Ruyter’s resignation sparks political call for State of Disaster at Eskom
Former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath) | The Kusile coal-fired power station in Delmas, Mpumalanga. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Soon after the resignation of Eskom’s CEO, André de Ruyter, was confirmed on Wednesday, political parties raised concerns over the state of the energy utility, which has plunged the country into Stage 5 rolling blackouts since the weekend.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for a State of Disaster at energy utility Eskom, while the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) said the resignation of André de Ruyter prompted hope that this would “be the first of many changes at Eskom”.

De Ruyter, who has been at the helm of Eskom for almost three years, will leave the utility in March 2023. His resignation was made public on Wednesday. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Eskom CEO André de Ruyter resigns

South Africa has been in the grip of Stage 5 rolling blackouts since Saturday afternoon, with no confirmation from Eskom on how long this latest bout of power cuts will last, according to a report by Daily Maverick’s Victoria O’Regan

In addition, over the past few days, stormy weather has created energy disruptions and affected the recovery of services in four provinces: Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng. 

ANC’s factional ‘shenanigans’ spilling into key utilities 

Ghaleb Cachalia, the DA’s spokesperson on public enterprises, said the resignation was a “reflection on [Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy] Gwede Mantashe’s relentless campaign against a man who despite having one hand tied behind his back, battled to get the utility on track”. 

This was in reference to comments made by Mantashe, as his department signed purchase agreements with independent power producers earlier this month. Daily Maverick’s Onke Ngcuka reported Mantashe as saying: “Any other government can be overthrown for this level of load shedding. Eskom, by not attending to load shedding, is agitating for the overthrow of the state.… load shedding is urgent; it must be attended to sooner than later.” 

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Gwede Mantashe has harsh words for Eskom as additional 1,759MW of renewables signed up

Cachalia said the factional shenanigans of the ANC were spilling over into the efficient running of key utilities. 

“At a time when De Ruyter needed all the support he could muster and a free hand to deal with the most pressing challenge facing the country, he has been sacrificed at the altar of political expediency, factionalism and racism,” he said. 

The DA, said Cachalia, condemned the “thinly veiled resignation” and called for “bold emergency action” to be taken to fix the increasing problem of rolling blackouts. 

“It’s time for a ring-fenced State of Disaster to be declared around Eskom, governed independently by a panel of experts, that ideally should include the former CEO, who knows more than most what bedevils Eskom,” said Cachalia. 

Speaking of the ANC, Transport Minister and ANC Secretary-General hopeful, Fikile Mbalula, tweeted the following: 

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ (EFF’s) deputy president, Floyd Shivambu, had a different take, saying “good riddance to white incompetent and mediocre trash imposed on us by puppets! The COO must follow too!” 

In a statement, the EFF welcomed De Ruyter’s resignation, calling him “incompetent, arrogant and useless”. The EFF called for the suspension of rolling blackouts “with immediate effect” and the restoration of electricity to households and businesses. 

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Numsa ‘overjoyed’ 

In a statement, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) said it was “overjoyed” at De Ruyter’s resignation. It labelled him the “worst CEO in the history of Eskom’s existence”. The union said De Ruyter claimed he could end rolling blackouts within 18 months but, “unfortunately, we have experienced the worst load shedding in the history of Eskom”. 

Numsa General Secretary Irvin Jim called for De Ruyters’ replacement to have an engineering background and already work for Eskom. 

“Eskom is not like any other company. You need a technical expert who, at the very least, must understand the difference between good quality coal and bad quality coal; this was a concept which was way over De Ruyter’s head,” said Jim. 

The union also said if there were a real difference to be made at Eskom and other state entities, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan must also resign. “He is an SOE wrecking ball and we have witnessed the destruction of our SOEs because of him”. 

If Gordhan really cared about South Africa, according to Numsa, “he must give us all an early Christmas gift and also resign”. 

‘Fresh energy and relevant engineering skills’ 

The IFP welcomed De Ruyter’s resignation, which the party hoped “will be the first of many changes at Eskom”. 

“Minister Gordhan has also lost the IFP’s vote of confidence, as Eskom’s downward spiral has only accelerated under his watch,” added the party. 

The party repeated its previous suggestions for failing state utilities such as Eskom to be removed from the Department of Public Enterprises and allocated to line function departments, in this case, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, “where there is institutional knowledge and expertise in relation to the energy sector”. 

“We further repeat our call for a new leadership collective with fresh energy and the relevant engineering skills, knowledge and expertise, as well for much-needed consequence management. If there are no results, there must be consequences,” the party’s statement read. 

‘He lacked the critical support’

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to outline how he would prioritise and ensure a fit-for-purpose Eskom leader who would deliver the country’s energy plan. Winde said the provincial government found De Ruyter was committed to resolving the significant and long-standing issues facing Eskom. 

“However, he lacked the critical government support to resolve these issues,” said Winde. 

“His resignation comes at an extremely precarious time for South Africa as we continue to face relentless and continuous load shedding, rather than deep anxiety about leadership of the utility. We should all be doing everything we can to support the utility and address its issues.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • christo o says:

    I wonder what would have happened if a white person tweeted what Mr Shivambu and Mr Mabula said about any of Jabu Mabuza, Phakamani Radebe, Johnny Dladla, Brain Molefe, Matshela Koko, Zethembe Khoza, Tshediso Matona, Colin Matjila, Brian Dames, or Mpho Makwana?

    When will we stop allowing our politicians to dehumanise “the other” so that they can create hatred and division on which they can build their own egos and power structures?

    We do not need a well-informed person who KNOWS what needs to be done. Everyone knows what needs to be done. It is so widely known that you can just search Google for the solution. The solution has been clear since 1997. What we need is a competent person who can DO what needs to be done, and competent people to support her/him from the Energy and Treasury portfolios and the Presidency.

    • Traci Riemer says:

      Great question (2nd para), I was also thinking lies, lies and more lies. (all from politicians I noticed later!?). Just how can it be countered?

      Huge impact DM has had obviously, how to spread the knowledge…..?

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