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Stabilising Eskom shouldn't be about race, says ANC after calls for black CEO

There’s been some criticism after the appointment of Andrew De Ruyter as Eskom’s CEO.

FILE: ANC's Pule Mabe. Picture: @MYANC/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress (ANC) said it had noted concerns about the call for a black South African to be appointed as Eskom’s CEO.

However, the governing party said that stabilising the power utility should not be about race, saying all South Africans should unite and work together.

There’s been some criticism after the appointment of Andrew De Ruyter as Eskom’s CEO. Some, like the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), believe that the appointment was a setback for transformations at the embattled utility.

But ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said South Africans should go beyond colour barriers to build a thriving economy.

“Solving the problems of South Africa won’t come about through the pigmentation of our skin. It is going to come about with all of us working together to ensure that we adhere to ethical and credible leadership.”

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.”

But it was the EFF’s Mbuyiseni Ndlozi who was opposed to the appointment.

“This racist project seeks to reinforce the falsehood that Africans cannot manage their own institutions.”

However, 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.

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

Eskom is in the top twenty power utilities worldwide in terms of installed generation capacity, but it has struggled to meet demand, with several bouts of severe power cuts between 2007 and 2019.

The utility has a total nominal capacity of around 44,000 megawatts (MW), with 36,500 MW of that coming from 15 coal-fired power stations.

Eskom is struggling to service R 440 billion of debt, which it ran up due to surging salary, fuel and debt-servicing costs, as well as mismanagement and corruption scandals.

It made a R20.7 billion net loss in the year to the end of March and expects another R20 billion loss in the current 2019/2020 financial year.

The government has promised to inject R59 billion into the utility over the next two financial years, in addition to R230 billion of bailouts spread over the next decade.

Analysts have said even those bailouts aren’t enough to make Eskom sustainable in the long term.

The government says it will split Eskom into three entities, generation, transmission and distribution, to boost efficiency, though it was not immediately clear how that would be achieved without a resolution to its debt and loss-making problems.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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