André de Ruyter, outgoing CEO of embattled state power company Eskom, has expressed disappointment about the lack of support he got from “the broader political sphere”.
He cited this as one of the main reasons behind his resignation in a media briefing on Thursday afternoon.
“I am dependent on the support of the broader political economy, and that support is absolutely critical to enabling the success of Eskom going forward,” he said.
“Given recent media reports, I am unfortunately currently in a position where I do not regard that position as being tenable,” said De Ruyter.
At Thursday’s briefing, Eskom board chairperson Mpho Makwana said that De Ruyter informed him of his intention to resign on Monday. The resignation was officially confirmed by Eskom’s board on Wednesday.
He will exit the hot seat at Eskom at the end of March 2023.
Since being appointed Group CEO in December 2019, De Ruyter has faced many detractors, some of whom – such as the Black Business Council and the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) – have called for his resignation in the past.
Last week, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe launched an attack on Eskom – effectively its CEO – saying the power utility was attempting to overthrow the government by failing to end load shedding.
Mantashe said Eskom was “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state” with continued implementation of load shedding.
On Thursday, De Ruyter said he was disappointed he could not achieve all of the objectives he had set.
“I think the circumstances surrounding Eskom are well known, the operational challenges, the financial challenges, the challenges surrounding societal matters, including crime and corruption as well as some of the issues we have experienced in delivering the unbundling of Eskom,” he said.
De Ruyter’s departure will come shortly before Eskom’s COO Jan Oberholzer is due to go on retirement in April 2022, and follows that of Rhulani Mathebula, who acted in the position of head of generation until last month.
Chris Yellend, MD of EE Business Intelligence said, De Ruyter’s resignation could not have come at a worse time for both Eskom and South Africa.
He said the departure of both De Ruyter and Oberholzer, brings on deep uncertainty, during a time when South Africa is experiencing the longest stretch, and the very worst load shedding that the country has ever experienced since rolling power outages were first implemented in 2007.
“We’re in for a period of uncertainty, at a very critical time.”
Yellend added that having acting executives could spell trouble, as they would have limited capacity to deal with the core issues at Eskom.
“It could take six months and longer to appoint a new CEO and COO… When you have acting people in these capacities, they can’t make hard decisions, they don’t have the authority, they don’t have the political backing to make these hard choices,” he said.
The leadership vacuum presented by the last three executive departures at Eskom, puts pressure on the utility, which is already struggling to retain and attract critical skills. This is in addition to its load shedding crisis and huge debt burden.