Considering that South Africa’s debt-stricken and loss-making state power utility poses the number one risk to the economy, appointing a permanent CEO to turn it around is widely seen as a top priority for President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration.
Yet, while the government pledged to name a new head of Eskom by the end of October, it’s missed repeated deadlines to act, evidence of how politically fraught the process has been. Jabu Mabuza, the utility’s chairman, has filled the post in an interim capacity since Phakamani Hadebe quit in July.
Ramaphosa said almost a month ago that the appointment would be made “soon”, a pledge he’s repeated several times since, while public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told Johannesburg-based radio station 702 the name would be announced by 10 November. And Jackson Mthembu, a minister in the presidency, said on 31 October that the cabinet had made its selection — but it remains under wraps.
“The delay in announcing the CEO is another clear indication of the power struggle around Eskom,” said Darias Jonker, a London-based director at Eurasia Group. “Competing interest groups each have their preferred candidate and Ramaphosa is yet again wavering over a key government decision.”
The new CEO will help oversee government plans to split Eskom into generation, transmission and distribution units under a state holding company — a breakup opposed by powerful labour unions who see it as a precursor to privatisation and job losses. — Reported by Paul Burkhardt, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP