The CEO of South Africa’s public electricity company Eskom, undermined by scandals and unable to supply the country, was ousted from his post on Wednesday, Eskom announced in a press release. Andre de Ruyter had already announced his resignation in December, but had been expected to stay on until the end of March to give the company time to find a replacement.
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The Board of Directors decided that Mr. de Ruyter did “not need to serve the remainder of his notice” and was “released from his obligations with immediate effect”, Eskom said. A few hours earlier the former CEO had expressed doubts about the government’s political will to fight against endemic corruption within Eskom.
In December, shortly before submitting his resignation, Mr. de Ruyter had been the victim of an attempted poisoning. South Africa does not produce enough power for its economy and population of 60 million. The continent’s leading industrial power has been subject to scheduled daily blackouts for months, reaching almost 12 noon on some days.
The country experienced a record 207 days of load shedding last year. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently declared a state of national disaster. At the same time he has yet to appoint a Minister of Electricity, a new post dedicated to tackling the crisis, ahead of a cabinet reshuffle.
Eskom generates 90 percent of the country’s electricity largely from coal. After years of corruption and mismanagement, it is unable to produce enough in ageing and poorly maintained plants. Eskom is also saddled with colossal debt equivalent to more than 20 billion euros. The state announced last year it will pay half of it.
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The bailout will take public debt to nearly 300 billion euros, or 73.6 percent of GDP, over the next three years, according to the finance minister, who added that the country was now spending more money on its debt than on health or defence. The South African central bank is predicting near-zero GDP growth for the year at 0.3 percent, partly because of the energy crisis.