South Africa

POWER CRISIS

Eskom and its COO Jan Oberholzer to ‘part ways by mutual agreement’

Eskom and its COO Jan Oberholzer to ‘part ways by mutual agreement’
Former Eskom chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer. (Photo: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Amid its search for a permanent chief executive officer, Eskom’s former chief operating officer will leave the power utility at the end of this month.

Former Eskom chief operating officer (COO) Jan Oberholzer, who retired as COO in April and has since been overseeing key projects, will leave the parastatal at the end of this month, the power utility said on Monday.

Eskom announced that the utility and the former COO would “part ways by mutual agreement”. 

Oberholzer’s departure from South Africa’s power utility comes seven months after the resignation of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter in December 2022. De Ruyter was due to leave his job in March 2023, but was released from Eskom “with immediate effect” following an explosive interview on political interference and corruption at the embattled power utility.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: Introducing the four crime cartels that have brought Eskom and South Africa to their knees

In February, Eskom announced Calib Cassim as its interim CEO while it searched for a new one. 

Oberholzer retired as COO of Eskom on 30 April this year, but had signed an agreement with the power utility to stay on in a new role to oversee projects aimed at helping South Africa out of its power bind. He was appointed as COO in mid-2018. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Former Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer to stay on at the utility

According to Eskom, the former COO was “on a fixed-term contract to provide support to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station long-term operation (LTO) and Kusile Power Station projects”.

In an interview with EE Business Intelligence in May, Oberholzer said that 2023 would continue to be a tough year in terms of power cuts, but there should be a substantial easing of load shedding intensity by early 2024, following repairs at the Kusile and Medupi power stations, and the refurbishment of Koeberg for a 20-year life extension.

Earlier on Monday, during a press conference on security issues relating to the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa said he was “very, very, very worried” that Koeberg’s refurbishment had fallen behind schedule — which will result in daily power cuts continuing into 2024. 

“I have asked for a more detailed report [on Koeberg], and the more we get an indication of what the issues are, the more we are getting very, very, very worried,” said Ramokgopa.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Further delay in life extension of Koeberg nuclear reactor worsens power outlook

He said he was meant to visit the nuclear power station last week to get an update on the progress made, but had to postpone his visit because he had other pressing matters.

Ramokgopa said he would prioritise the visit for this week, as “it is something that requires urgency”. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David Pennington says:

    And the children play on in the sand box

  • Iam Fedup says:

    So, one by one, any white man or woman who actually has the capability and experience to fix Eskom is removed “ by mutual agreement,” while the den of thieves in charge focuses on “other pressing matters.” What a bunch of useless oxygen robbers.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    Couldn’t visit the site that made him very very very worried because he had other pressing matters? Makes one wonder how many “very’s” it takes to highlight and concentrate on the problem at hand!

    • Philip De Kock says:

      What would he do at Koeberg ? Does he have the experience and knowledge to assist ? Also, does he have the will to sort anything out?

  • David C says:

    Clearly the ANC Godfathers were unhappy with JO’s candid comments to Alex Hogg earlier in July.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Ramokgopa.“I have asked for a more detailed report [on Koeberg], and the more we get an indication of what the issues are, the more we are getting very, very, very worried,”
    This is a major Upgrade Project with regular updated Project Plans and Steering Committee overview meetings and the criticality of this baseload Power Station is key to the economy.
    There is a bad history of this refurbishment and it seems continuing.
    What is the best case and worst case scenarios.
    There is something rotten in the State of Denmark

  • Sam Shu says:

    Of course they parted ways. He is most probably competent and has years in the business.

  • Pierre Rossouw says:

    It becomes very clear that the ANC, as the ruling party, does not intend to fix any state-owned enterprises; rather it uses these as means to channel state funds from treasury through these SOEs to the coffers of the ANC and to their cadre’s own pockets. It is evident that that is their intention.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    Another good one bites the dust. You would think that our new energy minister would want as much expertise available as possible, but as he has been found to be corrupt in the past, he most probably does not want honest people around

  • Patterson Alan John says:

    Considering the close working partnership between Andre’ and Jan O, their grasp of the issues and focus on what is important, all based on a lifetime of experience, the dominoes are falling.
    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
    All the Eskom Board and all the ANC cadres
    Couldn’t give a toss,
    Rather celebrating the double White loss.

    • Cheryl Siewierski says:

      Yup. The apparently supremely competent Jan got on too well with Andre for sure. I had rather hoped that the foundational improvements instituted at Eskom over the past few years might have held after de Ruyter’s departure, but it’s not looking promising at this point.

  • Michael Jones says:

    I’m sure that since his recent re-employment he’s looked carefully at the current programmes of work for Koeberg, Medupi and Kusile and then done thorough site inspection at the three sites.
    It’s my opinion that after seeing that there isn’t a chance for these contracts to meet their major milestones on the programme he’s decided to bail out now rather than be a scapegoat in the near future.

    • David Hill says:

      I’m pretty sure you’re spot on with that comment Michael. What good would it do for our “Minister of Electricity” to visit Koeberg in any case? He wouldnt know the difference between a volt or a vault!

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