/ 7 January 2023

Gwede Mantashe: ANC will be involved in appointment of new Eskom chief executive

Gwede Mantashe Anc Elective Conference Del
Party chairperson says ANC needs more time for consultation before processing the decision for state-owned enterprises to be moved to line ministries. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The ANC intends to play an active role in the appointment of the new Eskom chief executive, party chairperson and energy minister Gwede Mantashe said on Saturday. 

Asked by Mail & Guardian whether the party would participate in the exercise, Mantashe responded, “Yes.”

He elaborated that the ANC-led government would be involved in the search for a person to replace outgoing Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter, whose final day at the troubled state power utility will be 31 March.

“The board that is at Eskom will conduct interviews but they will ultimately come to the cabinet, that is how it works,” Mantashe said. 

He added that the board must weigh the requirements of the utility and appoint a person with the prerequisite skills to run Eskom. 

Mantashe said he could not say whether De Ruyter’s departure was a loss for Eskom, adding that he had never worked with the outgoing chief executive before. 

De Ruyter quit in December in the midst of the most acute rolling blackouts South Africa has had since Eskom first implemented load-shedding in 2007 to avoid overwhelming the national grid in the face of power generation constraints.

The Eskom boss — who has come under scrutiny from the ANC on his handling of the electricity crunch during his tenure at the company — agreed to stay for an additional period beyond the stipulated 30 days’ notice to ensure continuity while the board urgently embarked on a search for his successor. 

De Ruyter has faced increasing criticism as the energy crisis has worsened, including from Mantashe, who last July said the Eskom boss and the board may not have the skills needed to revive the ailing power utility.

Mantashe told M&G in an interview that De Ruyter would have been better suited at Eskom after the appointment of a “fixer”. 

De Ruyter has been Eskom’s chief executive since 15 January 2020, taking over from Jabu Mabuza, who had acted in the position after previous chief executive Phakamani Hadebe left at the end of July 2019.

The ANC’s recent elective conference resolved that all state-owned enterprises which operate in specific sectors of the economy should be placed under the relevant government departments, News24 reported. 

This has been the subject of a long-standing debate in the ruling party, with some of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s allies agitating for it in cabinet.

Instituting this mandate would lead to further debate on the potential dissolution of the public enterprise ministry headed by Pravin Gordhan. 

Asked by M&G on Saturday whether there were any set time frames for the decision to come into effect, Mantashe said the government and the ANC needed time to assess the decision. 

“Now you want me to preempt that, it can’t work that way. We must know that there is a resolution; go to structures of the ANC to take decisions,” he said.