Newly appointed Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter is not just brave, but also a patriotic South African, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has said.
The minister was answering to questions posed to him by members of Parliament on Tuesday; specifically, a question on De Ruyter's appointment. The new chief executive's appointment has been criticised by some unions and the EFF, with the latter emphasising the nosedive in the share price of Nampak – the packaging company of which De Ruyter is currently CEO – under his watch.
African Christian Democratic Party MP Wayne Thring asked Gordhan to respond to criticisms levelled at De Ruyter because he is not an engineer and might not understand critical difficulties at the power utility; criticism alleging that he was not successful at Nampak; and criticism that he is white, making his appointment anti-transformational.
Gordhan responded by first commending De Ruyter for being the "one person" willing to take a 20% cut on his salary. "In today's world, few people will do that," Gordhan added.
De Ruyter also spent 20 years at Sasol, and has "massive experience" working with engineers, said Gordhan.
"People worked with him at Nampak are highly complementary of his leadership," he said.
Regarding Nampak's performance, Gordhan said he personally is not an expert on the company but knows that companies go through "rough patches" and that De Ruyter led the restructuring of Nampak.
Gordhan also slammed claims by the EFF that de Ruyter's appointment was anti-transformation. "I do suppose we live in the age of fake news," Gordhan said. He said the country's state-owned enterprises have fair representations of Africans in top management positions.
"Mr De Ruyter was not appointed by me or identified by me," he said, adding that there was a thorough process followed before De Ruyter came out as the candidate preferred by the Eskom board.
"These are the facts, accept them," Gordhan said.
Similarly, at a briefing on Eskom's half-year results last week, chairperson Jabu Mabuza said that De Ruyter was the most "suitable" candidate for the job.
"We are satisfied as the board of Eskom and we are very grateful that the shareholder [government], having followed its own rigour, has come to the same conclusion that Andre de Ruyter now is the most suitable, able, available and willing South African to take this job," Mabuza said at the time.
"We are satisfied that Andre is the man for the now," he said.
Cabinet has also supported De Ruyter's appointment. Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu has said De Ruyter's appointment is not a reversal of government's policy on transformation.