André de Ruyter’s heart in the right place, we must applaud him, says new Eskom chair

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Eskom Holdings new chairman, Mpho Makwana (left) and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter (Photo: Getty Images / Gallo Images)
Eskom Holdings new chairman, Mpho Makwana (left) and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter (Photo: Getty Images / Gallo Images)

Eskom’s new chairperson, Mpho Makwana, said the board isn’t planning any immediate changes to management as it conducts an assessment of the utility’s power plants. 

Makwana, who was appointed along with almost all of the board last week, said the plants’ performance will be reviewed over the next 30 to 60 days to ascertain how to make them operational at an average of 75% of the time - a target set by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Their so-called electricity availability factor, a measure of when they can produce electricity, is currently less than 60%. 

"We have to assume office and give the existing team the benefit of the doubt," Makwana said in an interview with Newzroom Afrika, a Johannesburg-based television channel. Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter’s "heart is in the right place. We have to applaud him and support him for as long as he is group CEO,” he said.

The board’s appointment came at a time when South Africa is suffering its worst-ever blackouts as Eskom’s plants keep breaking down. The government and the utility’s management is facing increasing criticism, with President Cyril Ramaphosa last month canceling a trip to the US to return home to deal with the crisis.

Eskom’s management blames years of skimping on maintenance for the poor performance of the plants. Gordhan has repeatedly complained about corruption that took place at the utility during the rule of former President Jacob Zuma, who was forced out of office in 2018. Zuma has denied any wrongdoing.

Makwana also said renewable energy is unlikely to be able to supply all of South Africa’s electricity needs, while care must also be taken to protect the livelihoods of coal-dependent communities as the country reduces its reliance on that fuel. South Africa gets more than 80% of its power from coal and about a 10th from renewable energy.

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