Eskom

Africa’s largest power engine – state-owned South African utility Eskom – hit turbulent waters this year with October seeing the loss of two executives and the life of an employee.

Originally published in the ESI Africa weekly newsletter on 2018/10/17 – subscribe today

Lashed by storms from various quarters, including being chastised for not moving ahead with the renewable energy IPP procurement programme, the utility’s leadership baton needs a steadfast hand.

Phakamani Hadebe, the group’s chief executive offer, has taken difficult decisions in his stride to turn the company’s financial standing around. However, this can’t be done without the support of experienced senior executives at his side.

Leading by example is the group’s chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, who implored employees in an October letter to share revenue drivers and cost-cutting ideas. “The reality is that if Eskom had been in the private sector, we would probably have had to either decrease our staff or close our doors permanently, if one looks at the state of our finances,” stated Oberholzer plainly.

This message arrived just days before, tragically, live steam pressure at the company’s Lethabo power station ruptured claiming the life of one employee and seriously injuring another.

While offering thoughts and prayers to the families, Hadebe said: "The loss of Unit 5 will have a negative effect on the power system given that Lethabo is one of the most cost-effective generators with adequate access to a steady coal supply. All efforts will be focused on the safe and swift return of this unit to the national grid."

October has also seen the utility receive resignations from top executives, Johnny Dladla and Thava Govender – both are set to leave the company at the end of this month.

Dladla, who is the CEO of the firm’s subsidiary Eskom Rotek Industries, has been with the company for 23 years and served as CEO of Eskom Enterprises as well as Interim CEO of Eskom Holdings.

Govender is the group’s executive for generation and acting group executive of risk and sustainability with 27 years at the company under his belt.

Battening down the hatches, Eskom’s national spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, yesterday refuted the alleged resignation of the utility’s head of electricity distribution, Mongezi Ntsokolo, as an untrue and baseless rumour.

Is this powerful ship sinking beyond rescue? I remain hopeful that this is not the case and that young, intuitive leaders will fill the gaps left by these industry experts in steering the ship safely to port.

Author: Nicolette Pombo-van Zyl, editor of ESI Africa

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