South Africa: Can Eskom Be Saved?


Eskom has been run into the ground by the agents of State Capture. But it can still be saved if the new chairperson and CEO are given licence to run it free from political interference and cadre deployment, and with sound business and engineering practice.

The resignation of Jabu Mabuza as chairman of the board of Eskom allows for some useful reflection on the history of the utility, focusing on the operation, structure and governance issues.

Mabuza's resignation follows hard on the appointment of André de Ruyter as the new CEO - the 11th such appointment in 10 years and an oft-repeated mantra from the government that it will not allow Eskom to fail. The reasons, however, as to why the utility stands on the brink of catastrophe lie in its history and the litany of mismanagement and interference over many years.

Predating Mabuza and starting from the beginning of the millennium, Eskom paid scant attention to providing assurance of the life of power plants. Plants were driven to operate at an average of 90% utilisation (Eskom won utility of the year in 2001). This followed the deregulation of the energy industry in the late 90s when the government stopped...

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