Big Business Says Eskom Resignations Would Only ‘Make A Bad Situation Worse’

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) says it disagrees with those calling for the resignation of Eskom CEO André de Ruyter and his leadership team following the most recent intense period of load-shedding.
In a statement, BLSA noted that the State-owned utility had had ten CEOs in ten years, creating instability that “only served to make a bad situation worse”.
“We simply cannot afford to again lose the momentum built by this leadership team over the last 20 months, bearing in mind the extremely difficult circumstances they inherited and under which they are operating.
“Causing a renewed leadership crisis would set us further back in the challenging task of securing the country’s power supply,” BLSA, an association that includes some of the largest domestic and foreign enterprises operating in South Africa, said.
In an earlier statement, representative business body Business Unity South Africa (Busa) also rejected calls for the resignation of the Eskom CEO and board, saying it would not help to exacerbate the ongoing operational crisis by creating a leadership and governance crisis.
Likewise, the Minerals Council South Africa labelled the resignation calls as “unhelpful”.
These were initially led by the Black Business Council, which described the Eskom leadership as “completely overwhelmed, inept and out of its depth”.
The resignation call also found support among various labour unions, including the National Union of Mineworkers – a member of the African National Congress-aligned Congress of South Africa Trade Unions, which did not make a similar call.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana added to the uncertainty, telling the Sunday Times that De Ruyter was allowed more latitude than previous CEOs to implement planned maintenance, before saying it was “not his place” to pronounce on his removal.
Godongwana did stress, however, that the solution to the crisis required more than a narrow focus on fixing Eskom and would involve non-Eskom investment – a position strongly supported by the utility’s current leadership, as well as organised business.
As with Busa, BLSA stressed its concern about the negative economic and social effects of load-shedding, which it attributed to “massive underinvestment in maintenance over an extended period of time compounded by years of maladministration and outright corruption at Eskom during the State capture era”.
“More than R6-billion was stolen from Eskom alone according to figures before the State capture commission,” BLSA said.
The independent big business association also underlined the urgency of adding new generation capacity into the system, a shortfall that Eskom currently estimates to be between 4 000 MW and 6 000 MW.
It encouraged government to expedite Bid Window 6 (BW6) of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme, following the recent conclusion of BW5, during which 25 preferred bids were selected, representing nearly 2 600 MW of wind and solar capacity.
BLSA lamented that BW6, which government initially signalled would be launched in September, had not yet been announced, with indications that bidding was now only likely to be launched in January.
“Bid Windows 7 and 8 should also already be scheduled by now, given the urgency of the crisis. Better yet, bid windows could be abolished altogether and renewable energy procured on an ongoing basis as the situation demands,” BLSA said.
The association also argued that Eskom’s 8 GW renewables project pipeline, unveiled as part of its just energy transition strategy, should be expedited, with private sector involvement.
It added that the $8.5-billion financing package secured during the recent COP26 summit would give a major fillip to this plan.
“BLSA supports the steps being taken by the current management and its stated strategy and encourages the leadership team not to deviate from the focus on restoring the stability of the grid.”