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DA, ANC place faith in new Eskom boss De Ruyter; EFF not happy

Andre De Ruyter has not only decided to take on the mammoth task of leading financially-strapped Eskom, but he has also agreed to a lower compensation package than the position currently pays.

Newly appointed Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter. Picture: www.nampak.com

JOHANNESBURG - Andre De Ruyter’s appointment as Eskom’s new boss has drawn mixed reactions.

The Public Enterprises Ministry said he was one of 142 candidates who applied for the job. And it's an unenviable one, with the company drowning in debt and struggling to keep the lights on.

De Ruyter will officially take up his new role at the state-owned utility on 15 January.

De Ruyter has not only decided to take on the mammoth task of leading financially-strapped Eskom, but he has also agreed to a lower compensation package than the position currently pays.

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Natasha Mazzone said De Ruyter should use his experience of working in both the public and private sectors to set Eskom on the right course to recovery.

“Mr De Ruyter has an unenviable task and his priority should be to stabilise Eskom’s mountain of debt.”

The ANC expressed its confidence in De Ruyter after his appointment, saying he would strengthen Eskom’s ability to deliver reliable energy to the country.

Spokesperson Pule Mabe said: “We wish him well in turning around the fortunes of Eskom as it plays a big role in the county’s economy.”

De Ruyter is currently serving as CEO of Nampak, one of the continent’s biggest packaging companies.

The Economic Freedom Fighters, however, wasn't impressed. The party said De Ruyter’s appointment was irrational and went against transformation.

Spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “This racist project seeks to reinforce the falsehood that Africans cannot manage their own institutions.”

Some analysts have also questioned whether de Ruyter, who has been leading a firm that specialises in designing and making packaging, had enough experience in the power business.

“He is a surprise appointment ... It is unclear he has the requisite experience,” said Peter Attard Montalto, head of capital markets research at Intellidex. “Nampak is a totally different kettle of fish and has not been clearly successful.”

The government has said it would split Eskom into generation, transmission and distribution businesses to boost efficiency, although it has not said how this would be achieved without first resolving its huge debt and loss-making problems.

Robust economic growth in South Africa hinges on saving Eskom, which is buried under R440 billion of mountain of debts and provide the nation with enough electricity from its creaking fleet of coal-fired plants.

The government has pledged to give Eskom more than R100 billion over the next two fiscal years, with additional aid spread over the next decade.

Eskom’s previous CEO, Phakamani Hadebe, resigned this year, citing health reasons. He was the 10th chief executive in a decade to quit a company which has seen a steady stream of departing senior executives and board members.

Chris Yelland, a Johannesburg-based energy expert, also said de Ruyter had an “an unenviable task”.

“I am not sure if this the right appointment. It’s wait-and-see at the moment, but I am filled with a kind of foreboding,” said Yelland.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan thanked de Ruyter in a statement “for not only accepting this position at a difficult time for Eskom, but, given Eskom’s current financial situation, also agreeing to a lower compensation package than the position currently pays.”

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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