South Africa’s struggling state-owned power utility will
name an acting chief executive officer when incumbent Phakamani Hadebe steps
down at the end of the month, according to a person familiar with the decision.
The appointment will be made as the government readies a
rescue plan for Eskom Holdings, which is saddled with more than $30bn (over
R400bn) in debt and isn’t selling enough power to cover its costs.
The post will have to be filled temporarily because the
board didn’t have enough time to advertise and go through the required
processes for a permanent appointment, said the person, who asked not to be
identified because they aren’t authorised to comment. Some recent Eskom chief
executives began as interims.
President Cyril Ramaphosa’s government intends to split
Eskom into three units under a state-owned holding company and accelerate the
disbursement of a 10-year, R230bn bailout. The appointment of an interim leader
may prove problematic because the person would lack the necessary authority to
introduce difficult and unpopular reforms, such as possible staff cuts, and
might not be around to see them through.
Eskom didn’t immediately respond to a request seeking
Hadebe quit in May after just 16 months in the post, saying
that the role came with “unimaginable demands” that had taken a toll
on his health and he was leaving in the interest of his family and the company.
He will become the 10th person to vacate the post in as many years.
Ramaphosa said in his June 20 state-of-the-nation address that Hadebe’s replacement would be announced after his departure that a chief restructuring officer would be appointed soon to reposition the company financially.
Three teams have been assisting and advising on the Eskom
turnaround, according to the person and interviews with other officials
involved in the restructuring process:
A task team led by Anton Eberhard, a professor at the
University of Cape Town, that reports to the presidency and made the initial
recommendation to break up the utility. The presidency is evaluating its other
A team from the National Treasury is considering how to
strengthen Eskom’s balance sheet and address its financing issues, and is
working on a law to accelerate the bailout. Finance Minister Tito Mboweni will
also decide on a chief restructuring officer, and is expected to make an
announcement this month.
A technical task team appointed by Public Enterprises
Minister Pravin Gordhan in March has considered how to address operational
issues and has submitted a final report. The ministry is guiding the process of
breaking up Eskom, with the presidency playing a lesser role.
Ian Stuart, acting deputy director-general for the National
Treasury’s budget office, said a number of proposals were on the table for
fixing Eskom, including a debt swap and setting up a special-purpose vehicle to
take over some of its debt.
“The likelihood is that more support will be required”
beyond the aid that has already been announced, he said in a text message.