André de Ruyter’s resignation as Eskom CEO clearly indicates how compromised President Cyril Ramaphosa is.
It shows how his authority within the ANC has deteriorated to such an extent that he is unwilling – or unable – to stand up against senior members of his so-called inner circle, most notably Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe.
His silence was deafening after Mantashe let rip, saying De Ruyter, by allowing load shedding to continue, is “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state”.
His cowardly silence placed De Ruyter in the centre of the ANC ‘s political infighting and hung him out to dry. He had no option but to resign. I don’t think it is a surprise at all.
The job as Eskom CEO, in a post-state capture era, was always going to be about much more than keeping the lights on: it also involves rooting out the entrenched corruption left behind by the Zuma era.
Mantashe also said De Ruyter acted more like a “policeman”, focused on “chasing criminals” rather than attending to technical challenges.
This was probably the biggest revelation of incompetence and misunderstanding of why Eskom is in the mess it is in.
Corruption is at the core of Eskom’s dire position, and rooting out corruption is a crucial necessity for its performance. To blame De Ruyter’s prioritisation of curbing corruption as the reason for load shedding is beyond shocking.
An obvious conclusion could be that the beneficiaries of lawlessness have had enough. After all, virtually all of the political beneficiaries of state capture can be found within the ruling party.
In many ways, De Ruyter’s “removal through inaction” is similar to Zuma killing the Scorpions to allow for undisturbed looting.
If Ramaphosa agreed with Mantashe, he should have fired De Ruyter. But to remain silent indicates that he is unwilling or unable to rebuke a senior minister and ANC executive member publicly.
Ramaphosa’s decision to not support or fire one of the most critical individuals responsible for our economy shows he is politically marginalised – or, dare I say, a wimp.
But moving on.
The big question is who will take over, and will this person be able to do a better job than De Ruyter at keeping Eskom and South Africa’s lights on?
It is not going to be an easy task.
In 2019 Eskom commissioned a recruitment agency to find a suitable replacement for then-acting CEO Jabu Mabuza. The agency presented the board with 142 potential candidates.
The Sunday Times reported in 2019 that around 27 of the front runners were approached, but they declined due to the apparent “stigma of political interference” and the fact that state-owned enterprises have “ruined a lot of careers”.
Then De Ruyter got the job. He was CEO of Nampak at the time and took a significant pay cut to move to Eskom.
I don’t know if there is any competent, self-respecting individual who will apply for the job in the current political environment.
De Ruyter is set to vacate his office on 31 March next year, which will coincide with the retirement of Jan Oberholzer, Eskom’s current chief operating officer, with 30 years of experience at the utility.
It also follows the resignation of Eskom’s head of generation, Rhulani Mathebula, in November. He had 19 years of experience.
Ramaphosa once again put party before country.