Executive Insights

21 CEOs in 10 years: A guide to all the executive drama at SAA and Eskom

Business Insider SA
Outgoing Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe and former SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana. (Photos: Netwerk24/Elizabeth Sejake, Rapport, Gallo Images)
  • SAA and Eskom have lost their CEOs - continuing on a long line of chaotic executive developments.
  • Between them the two state-owned enterprises have had 21 CEOs in the past decade.
  • Many of the CEOs left the SOEs under a cloud.
  • For more, go to Business Insider SA.

SAA and Eskom both lost their CEOs over the past ten days – which brings the total CEO tally between them to 21 over the past decade. 

While Eskom’s Phakamani Hadebe said the job was taking a toll on his health, Vuyani Jarana lashed out at government, complaining about funding uncertainty and how slow decision-making is undermining SAA's turnaround plan. This included transferring Boeing aircraft from SAA to Mango and selling its catering business.

In a clear reference to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, Jarana said in his resignation latter:

"Lines of accountability are becoming increasingly blurred about what operational decisions are in my domain, which are in the board's domain and which are in the minister's domain. Trust levels are very low impacting ways of working."

Eskom and SAA are facing staggering losses, accumulated through years of chaotic developments in their top executive.

Here's how Eskom and SAA went through an average of 2.1 CEOs per year over the past decade.


After five years in the job, CEO Khaya Ngqula is suspended and then sacked, amid accusations that he authorised massive bonuses without approval, as well as signing an ATP tennis sponsorship deal worth R120 million without board agreement. Former pilot Chris Smtyhe is appointed in an acting capacity.

Smythe resigns after Siza Mzimela is appointed as CEO. Mzimela joined SAA in 1996 as a research analyst and was head of the Voyager programme.

Mzimela resigns after a dispute with government. While SAA continued to struggle with its balance sheet, it managed to post profits in 2010 and 2011, but lost almost R1 billion in 2012 – the beginning of a long streak of massive losses. Vuyisele Kona, SAA chairperson, takes over as acting CEO.

Then minister of public enterprises Malusi Gigaba suspends Kona following unnamed allegations. The Sunday Times later reported that the Gupta family offered Kona R500,000, but he refused. Nico Bezuidenhout, CEO of Mango, is appointed as acting CEO of SAA.

Bezuidenhout is replaced by Monwabisi Kalawe, the new permanent CEO.

Kalawe is suspended after a sexual harassment claim. He quits before disciplinary action is finalised. Bezuidenhout is again appointed as CEO.

Bezuidenhout moves back to Mango. HR head Thuli Mpshe is appointed acting CEO. In the same year, Mpshe is replaced by Musi Zwane, the new acting CEO.

Zwane is suspended amid accusations that he was "facilitating questionable payments". Vuyani Jarani – a former Vodacom executive – is appointed as permanent CEO.

Jarana quits and cites a lack of government support.


Eskom CEO Thulani Gcabashe's contract ends after seven years. Jacob Maroga is appointed to replace him.

Maroga announces that he resigned, but he later takes Eskom to court, claiming that the utility forced him to quit. His attempt to get a R85 million payout is thrown out of court. Mpho Makwana is appointed as acting CEO.

Makwana is replaced with permanent appointee, CEO Brian Dames. 

Dames resigns due to personal reasons. Collin Matjila is appointed as acting head. Later that year, Thediso Matona is appointed as CEO.

Matona is suspended because he provided “unreliable” and “inconsistent” information to the “war room”, the high-level task team headed by then deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa during a loadshedding crisis. Brian Molefe is appointed as CEO.

Molefe resigns from Eskom after being named in the state capture report by former public protector Thuli Madonsela. Matshela Koko is appointed acting head.

Koko is suspended amid allegations of “serious acts of misconduct” and “gross negligence”. Johnny Dladla is appointed as acting head, then replaced with Sean Maritz.

Maritz resigns following a disciplinary process, which involved a controversial loan agreement with the Chinese firm Huarong Energy Africa. Phakamane Hadebe is appointed as CEO.

Hadebe resigns due to health reasons.

For more, go to Netwerk24.