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Former Eskom executives seek SA's toughest CEO job

Aug 14 2019 18:54
Paul Burkhardt, Antony Sguazzin and Loni Prinsloo

The chief executive role at Eskom, considered the most challenging job in corporate South Africa, is attracting interest from people who know how difficult turning around the debt-ridden state utility will be.

Andy Calitz, the former CEO of LNG Canada, who started his career as an electrical engineer at Eskom and later held various senior posts at Royal Dutch Shell, confirmed he applied for the job and declined to comment further. Dan Marokane, Eskom’s former head of group capital, has also applied, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to comment. Marokane declined to comment.

Business leaders suggested to Eskom’s board that former CEOs Brian Dames and Jacob Maroga also be considered for the post, according to another person familiar with the information, who asked not to be identified because it isn’t public. Neither responded to a request for comment.

Phakamani Hadebe stepped down as head of the utility at the end of last month, and Chairman Jabu Mabuza has temporarily taken over the position until a permanent appointment is made.

Debt Mountain

Eskom’s new leader will have to turn around a company that supplies about 95% of the country’s power yet isn’t generating enough income to cover its costs, is saddled with R440bn ($28.9 billion) of debt and poses a serious threat to the entire South African economy. The government has given the utility a three-year, R128bn rand bailout, but that’s unlikely to be enough to get its finances back on track.

Maroga’s departure from Eskom was acrimonious - the utility said it accepted his offer to resign in 2010, but he claimed he’d been unlawfully dismissed and filed an unsuccessful application for reinstatement.

Marokane was one of three executives, including then-CEO Tshediso Matona, who were suspended by Eskom’s board in 2015 amid an independent inquiry into the electricity producer’s performance. They eventually agreed to part ways amicably, and Eskom said it had never alleged that Marokane was guilty of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Applications for the CEO role closed on August 2. Mabuza last month said he’d relinquish the post by the end of October.

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