President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would “applaud” the person who has agreed to become chief executive officer of struggling state-owned utility Eskom.
Eskom’s current CEO, Andre de Ruyter, said last month that he would step down at the end of March.
The utility has been criticized for exposing the nation to its worst ongoing power outages – known as load shedding – since 2008. De Ruyter, who took on the role in early 2020, said he survived an attempt on his life in December.
“It’s a difficult job,” Ramaphosa said during a news conference. “I applaud anyone who takes on this job.”
TO READ | Ramaphosa: De Ruyter resigned because it’s a “tough job”.
South Africa experienced 205 days of load shedding last year, preventing businesses from expanding and creating jobs. The company’s coal-fired power plants regularly fail and it doesn’t have money to buy diesel to supplement its generation capacity.
“We’re taking care of it as urgently as we can,” Ramaphosa said. “We should be glad the net didn’t collapse, that would be the worst Armageddon.”
Then there are Eskom’s 396.3 billion rand debt. Eskom’s interest and loan repayments will rise to R81 billion in the 12 months to the end of March before the government assumes part of the company’s debt.
Last month, Deloitte & Touche, Eskom’s auditor, expressed concern that the company might not be able to continue as a going concern. The examiner found evidence the utility failed to take action to correct violations of the National Environment Management Act or to comply with the Public Finance Management Act, Eskom said in a stock filing.
Other irregularities were also identified, including the deliberate destruction of tender documents in a fire, the possible recovery or falsification of records, and a failure to investigate and report financial misconduct and irregularities.