“Rebuilding Eskom’s values is a critical part of our turnaround and we are making good progress on it.”
Eskom’s group CEO remains in employ a year after appointment, and that’s an achievement! De Ruyter’s predecessors were either carried out on their shields or ejected in short order as a result of stress, politicking, or dishonesty. Tasked with turning this vast, cumbersome utility around, De Ruyter’s effectiveness (or otherwise) will take years to show results. South Africa has continued to experience bouts of loadshedding in 2020 and 2021, in some cases escalating the misery of Covid-19 lockdowns and/or freezing weather. But the downtime has been considerably less than feared, the dire state of South Africa’s aged power stations notwithstanding.
The latest Eskom results show operational performance is gradually improving, although progress has been hampered by low demand through the months of Covid-19. The process of restructuring the utility into generation, transmission, and distribution divisions has begun, though transparency has been lacking. More obvious has been the headline grabbing punitive action taken against employees and contractors found to have defrauded the company. In September, De Ruyter suspended two power station managers for “apathetic behaviour” which had contributed to an escalation in loadshedding.
Tackling Eskom’s environmental transgressions, while continuing to deliver power, presents another serious challenge. Notably, the first steps to prosecute the utility for violating emission limits at Kendal Power Station were taken in December. Beyond De Ruyter’s arc of influence, government progress remains glacially slow. It has not addressed Eskom’s unsustainable debt; nor has it been able to get municipalities to pay their arrears. Above all, there’s been a lack of momentum in the critical process of commissioning new green energy.
Andre De Ruyter
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