Eskom’s newly-appointed chairperson Mpho Makwana says that the board needs one to two months to conduct an “onboarding programme” before he can confidently comment on any plans to resolve South Africa’s energy crisis.
This was the chair’s response in an interview with Newzroom Afrika when asked what the board’s strategy is to increase the country’s Energy Availability Factor (EAF) to 75% – a target set by public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
The country’s current EAF, a measure of the difference between the maximum availability and all unavailabilities, is currently less than 60%.
As part of Makwana’s current plan, he said the first step is to assume office and give the existing team – including embattled CEO Andre de Ruyter – the benefit of the doubt.
He added that De Ruyter’s “heart is in the right place. We must applaud and support him for as long as he is group CEO.”
The board will then consider the current strategy set in place by De Ruyter and adopt it as its own, making adjustments where the board finds it necessary.
From there, Makwana explained that as part of the onboarding programme, the board would visit the country’s various power stations and staff to ascertain the root causes and what is needed to be done to improve the generation capacity to the desired levels.
“Only by dealing with the root causes will we really be able to solve these problems permanently, and this takes time,” he said.
After that assessment, Eskom would then enter into ‘new goal commitment contracts’ with the new team and, from there, hold them to account based on these new goals.
Makwana added that who gets to be retained or not will be contingent on the performance review of these commitments.
“My appeal to the people of South Africa is… I know it’s painful – I also get load shedding in my own home, I’m not immune from this – but let’s let facts and figures dictate how we turn the place around,” he added.
Notably, Makwana also said a priority in his plan to turn Eskom around is to introduce bonuses – which he prefers to call “appropriate incentives” – for Eskom’s employees.
He explained that in the last three to four years, the average employee at Eskom hasn’t enjoyed performance incentives, adding that the current incentives aren’t in line with what they used to be at Eskom.
Makwana added that it’s hard to push over 40,000 employees towards a common goal without addressing the question of “what’s in it for me”.
“We must recognise that we are dealing with human beings that believe in effort and rewards,” he said.
However, before implementing anything, he said that the board would have to consult with Eskom’s shareholders, the National Treasury, and other key players to ascertain how it can inspire people to be part of the journey.
Makwana said that it’s important to note that, while incentives are a focus, South Africa as a whole – and addressing the need for sustainable energy generation – is the board’s first and top priority.
When asked whether or not the new board had a timeline set in place regarding addressing load shedding, Makwana said that it would be foolish at this point to make any promises.
However, he said that the public would regularly be briefed on Eskom’s progress after the onboarding process.
“What I’m prepared to commit to is that in a short space of time, once we [the board] get into the rhythm of things, we will have adopted a timeline that we will then share with the public,” Makwana said.