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Hadebe resigns from Eskom citing ill health

Eskom has claimed the scalp of yet another chief executive, as the utility announced on Friday evening that Phakamani Hadebe would be stepping down at the end of July, due to health reasons.

Hadebe had been in the role for a little over a year. After taking the helm on an interim basis last January, Hadebe was permanently appointed in May 2018.

In a statement Hadebe said: “It is no secret that this role comes with unimaginable demands which have unfortunately had a negative impact on my health. In the best interest of Eskom and my family, I have therefore decided briato step down.”

Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza, said that the Hadebe had been “instrumental in driving stability at Eskom during a very challenging period at the organisation”.

“Appreciating the toll that this takes on an individual, we have had to, with regret, accept his decision,” said Mabuza.

Since 2010, Eskom has had no less than eight chief executives and acting chief executive, including the likes of Brian Molefe, Matshela Koko and Sean Maritz all of whom left under a cloud.

High hopes accompanied Hadebe’s appointment. His experience at treasury, and time spent overhauling the Land Bank, another embattled state owned entity, as well as his work in corporate finance at Absa, meant he was cast in the role of Mr Fixit.

But the past year revealed the extent of the rot at the organisation after years mired in state capture and poor management. In the first set of full year results reported under Hadebe mid-year last year, Eskom’s irregular expenditure skyrocketed to almost R20-billion as the company began to lift the lid on suspect contracts in earnest.

At the time the group reported losses of almost R3-billion — but since then Eskom has forecast a loss of closer to R20-billion for the 2018/19 year which ended on March 31.

Eskom’s debt has soared to over R420-billion and it is unable to cover interest payments from its revenues, despite a number of recent tariff increases. In February’s budget, treasury announced that it would provide Eskom with a R66-billion injection in over the coming three years, but this is likely to rise to around R150-billion in the coming 10 years.

Extensive operational issues have aggravated its financial problems — resulting in the country being plunged into stage four load shedding earlier this year.

Eskom’s ageing power stations have been breaking down due to a legacy of poor maintenance, at the same time that the working units of its new build projects Medupi and Kusile have not been performing properly.

The board did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding a succession plan, or when it will begin processes to find Hadebe’s replacement.

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

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