HAVING appointed one of his chief supporters Jabu Mabuza as the chairman of the Eskom board when by his (Mabuza’s) own admission, “he had no experience, had not applied for the job and had not wanted it”, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has once again shown South Africans the middle finger by appointing another incompetent supporter of his, Andre de Ruyter, as chief executive officer of Eskom.
De Ruyter was CEO of Nampak in 2014 under the chairmanship of now Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and during his tenure, according to Bloomberg, “the company’s share price plunged from a high of 48.85 rand in November 2014 to as low as 6.85 rand last week. In that time, he pocketed 21.5 million rand of bonuses, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. His compensation last year came to 16.5 million rand, including an 8.8 million rand bonus, even as the company’s share price sank 15%”.
He was also among the 81 CEOs who signed the pledge of support for Gordhan in 2016 ahead of his court appearance on fraud charges. The initiative was convened by none other than Mabuza which would explain why, apart from being buddies with billionaire Johan Rupert, he was called while on holiday and much to his surprise, asked to takeover the helm at the power utility. This was one of the startling confessions by Mabuza himself at the State of Capture Commission earlier this year when he told the Commission that the board he was to oversee had already been convened for him, something he said he had never experienced before in his life.
De Ruyter, of course takes over from Mabuza who was appointed as interim executive chairman, acting CEO of Eskom Holdings, and acting Group CEO of Eskom, as a result of the departure of former CEO Phakamani Hadebe who was appointed to the position by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration. It wasn’t even a year later that Hadebe left, citing health reasons, but it later emerged that the interference by Gordhan was part of the reasons for his departure.
De Ruyter might have extensive experience in the corporate sector, probably his only saving grace, but his performance at Nampak must have shareholders jumping for joy at news of his departure.
He has no experience in energy and engineering and no public sector experience where the shareholders are not only about profit but have political agendas. And yet he beat over a 140 candidates who supposedly applied for the job and three others who, we were told for the past three weeks or so, were shortlisted for the job. The name of Andre De Ruyter appears nowhere except on the dismal performance of the packaging company and on the list of the 81 CEOs who signed a pledge in support of Gordhan.
For the past two months or so we have been consumed by the name Andy Calitz, former LNG Canada CEO, who we were told was a respected global leader in the gas and energy sector. We were told of his glowing educational background – an electrical engineer from the University of Stellenbosch, with further qualifications in commerce, management and business administration from the Harvard Business School in the United States, the University of the Witwatersrand, the University of South Africa and Insead Business School in France.
Calitz has experience in the field of gas and electricity having started his career at Eskom in various managerial and executive roles.
When criticism of his candidacy was challenged on the basis of race and his citizenship, we were told he’s a South African and the best man for the job.
And so what changed? Why do we now have an incompetent man who has no clue about engineering, the energy, gas and electricity sector when it seemed to be everything that was required to turnaround Eskom woes just two months ago? Suddenly we are told engineering is not a requirement but the ability to inspire and lead are key. What does leadership and ability to inspire entail if Nampak under this man’s “leadership” performed as dismally as it did?
Calitz confirmed, according to media reports, to have applied for the job. And so what happened to his application? Did he turn down the appointment if it was ever offered and if so why? Why were we made to believe he was the man capable of doing this job when Gordhan had De Ruyters in mind instead?
I frankly couldnt care less that De Ruyters is white. After all, the same Gordhan appointed an Eskom board and executive comprising of several Blacks who had no experience in energy whatsoever and a year into their tenure posted a whooping R20.7bn loss. He’s the same man who overlooked some whites, on that board, who were more experienced than his bumbling friend Mabuza, who arrogantly told us on television that he wasn’t qualified for the Eskom board chairperson job and the other two interim positions, and had neither applied nor wanted them. He boasted that he was a taxi driver and indeed one has to understand his arrogance in the context of the strategic role he was given despite his lack of qualifications and experience.
Im not going to harp on De Ruyter’s race as the primary issue of my condemnation of his appointment – he’s simply useless and his performance at Nampak proves it. The bigger question is why he was appointed to this vitally important role in the development of South Africa’s economy and in turn, the improvement of the lives of the citizens of this country? Is the idea to completely cripple Eskom and sell it off to private hands at next to nothing?
While I accept the need to continue with the transformation agenda, we must guard against incompetence cloaked in issues of race. De Ruyter is useless – whether Black, white or pink – finish and klaar.