De Ruyter’s exit a massive blow to South Africa: business

 ·15 Dec 2022

The resignation of Andre De Ruyter is a major blow for Eskom and the efforts to address the energy crisis we are facing on an ongoing basis, says Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).

The group representing business interests in South Africa said that the resignation of the power utility’s CEO was “hardly surprising given the irresponsible comments by some in government and other sectors”.

It is up to the Eskom Board to act with urgency to announce a replacement, even if on a temporary basis, said BUSA.

“The replacement must have the skills and capability to continue all efforts to reduce load shedding, accelerate the Eskom restructure, tackle ongoing corruption and sabotage and work with business to diversify the energy generation and distribution environment, with a focus on cleaner energy.”

BUSA said that big business remains committed to working with the government in this single biggest crisis in the midst of a series of crises.

“We also urge President Cyril Ramaphosa to rise above the issues in the ANC and lead the country in urgently responding to this crisis. This exacerbates an already critical situation.”

The group commended De Ruyter for his “valiant efforts undertaken under unbearable conditions”.

On Wednesday, 14 December, the failing utility issued a statement announcing the resignation. De Ruyter is set to leave in March 2023, with no official replacement known.

De Ruyter has been CEO over a period of record high levels of load shedding and sabotage. Multiple calls had been made for him to step down by ministers and the public at large.

The most recent call was made by the mineral resources and energy minister himself, Gwede Mantashe, who summarily said that the CEO’s failure to stop load shedding was akin to agitating for the overthrow of the state.

De Ruyter’s resignation has raised eyebrows, allegedly resulting from political infighting within the ruling party, the African National Conference (ANC).

Opposition party, the DA, even posed the question of if De Ruyter’s axing was the price Ramaphosa had to pay for the radical economic transformation factions’ support in the controversial Phala Phala scandal.

“Both Mantashe and Gordhan started circling De Ruyter last week. The one man standing between greedy cadres and fixing Eskom pushed out to appease the ANC,” said John Steenhuisen, the leader of the DA.

ANC party member and minister of transport Fikile Mbalula said, in a tweet, that the Eskom CEO’s resignation was great news and “gives the country the opportunity to get a well-informed person about Eskom challenges”.

The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises welcomed De Ruyter’s resignation, saying that the CEO failed to resolve the load shedding crisis as he had promised.

“The committee appreciates the role Mr de Ruyter played at Eskom and will ever cherish it. However, the committee also recognises that his ability is not stretchable beyond the crisis point the power utility has reached, notwithstanding our unwavering support as the committee to him,” it said.

“Mr de Ruyter has not been able to resolve the worsening problem of load shedding according to the timeframes he had given to the committee. Mr de Ruyter resigns at a time when the country faces very unacceptable and unbelievable load shedding problem.”

The committee said the Eskom Board needs to get a suitably qualified replacement who will “provide workable and practical solutions to the rising complex problems facing the power utility currently.”

Read: Eskom announces load shedding changes for the long weekend – here’s the new schedule

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