Andre de Ruyter, Group Chief Executive of state-owned power utility Eskom speaks during a media briefing in Johannesburg, South Africa, January 31, 2020. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

By Jabu Kumalo

As the calls for Eskom’s Chief Executive Officer, Andre de Ruyter, to step down intensify, he has responded and said: &changing the jockey on the horse will not solve the problem.”

He said he understood well the frustrations people were going through, but pushing him out would not solve the problem. He said he would not be resigning at his own accord.

This call has come amidst rolling blackouts that have negatively affected the lives of ordinary South Africans and businesses across the board. Almost all politicians are united in calling the management at the power utility to step down or be fired.

Even those who were optimistic when De Ruyter was hired to fix the mess at Eskom have since changed their tune.

The governing party, the ANC, conceded that Eskom had actually become sort of an “opposition party” by costing them votes during the recent elections.

In their opinion, the crisis at the power utility had given enough ammunition to their detractors and other political parties.

So far, Eskom has had about 10 CEOs in a decade.

De Ruyter has warned energy experts not to make “uncalled for and irresponsible” statements that the country was facing a total blackout.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, echoed calls for De Ruyter and his management’s heads as “they have failed beyond any reasonable doubt”.

Many have claimed that there is definitely foul play at Eskom, in order to cripple power stations. There are also fears that load-shedding may be with us for the next five years or more without a solution, besides the fact that De Ruyter had promised when he started his job that all plants would be refurbished and blackouts will be a thing of the past. That was about 18 months ago.

Newly-formed political party, ActionSA, said they had a plan to fix the electricity mess and “end the abuse of the people at the hands of Eskom and the ANC”.

ActionSA said they had met with former senior officials at Eskom and had also engaged other experts “to ensure formulation and viability of a plan to provide stable power to Soweto, but also the whole of Johannesburg”.

“It cannot be said in 2021 that Joburg lacks the capacity to provide electricity to certain communities while it continues to do exactly this for most residents of the City,& Action SA President, Harman Mashaba, said in a statement.

&Initial dialogues we had with experts reveal that Eskom would be willing to explore the handover of the distribution given their own financial predicament as a State-Owned Entity.&

He said if their efforts fail, they will resort to measures like legal action.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), said it was clear that the current executive management at f Eskom, led by the Group CEO Andre De Ruyter and its COO Jan Oberholzer, “have no idea how to resolve the crisis of load-shedding at Eskom”.

Numsa said from the time the Eskom board appointed De Ruyter, they questioned whether he had the right skills to run Eskom, or not.

Irvin Jim, the general secretary of Numsa, said: “We repeat our demand for the Eskom board to remove both De Ruyter and Oberholzer immediately and urgently find suitably qualified executive managers with engineering experience at Eskom, to help us stabilise the grid.

Irvin Jim

Such talent does exist and the governing ANC and the Eskom board must urgently act in the interests of the public and remove the pair for the sake of our economic recovery as a country.

“Under the leadership of Brian Molefe and Matshela Koko, we were able to significantly reduce load-shedding. But since then, the situation has dramatically worsened. The skills to stabilise the grid are there within Eskom, the technical ability is there but the people who have been tasked to implement and lead are incapable of turning the situation around.”

Jim said De Ruyter and Oberholzer are not bigger than Eskom, or the economy: “So, why is the board, and by extension, government the shareholder, seemingly so determined to keep them on when they do not know what they are doing? For the sake of our economic development as a country, it is time for the board of Eskom to do the right thing and remove them.”

Zwelinzima Vavi

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