Executive Insights

He’s ‘not entirely insane', says Eskom’s new CEO – here’s why he took the job

Business Insider SA
De Ruyter
  • He is "not entirely insane" for taking the top job at Eskom, says its new CEO André de Ruyter, though he'll admit to naive patriotism.
  • He is at Eskom to make a contribution, De Ruyter says, and he thinks his team is putting together the right ideas.
  • There won't be management consults involved – just lots of data.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za

Eskom's new CEO can see why others may wonder what possessed him to take on the job, but insists he's "not entirely insane" for doing it.

It's just that once he was approached, he couldn't say no.

"If I had turned it down, my feeling was that I would have had to pack my bags and go to Australia or New Zealand, wherever," De Ruyter told Business Insider South Africa on Tuesday. "Because if we are not prepared to make a contribution to the success of South Africa, can we really say that we have a place in this country?"

You can call that "naive patriotism" if you like, he says, but it comes down to a willingness to contribute.

De Ruyter has promised significant changes at Eskom – if his board backs a package of proposals at the end of the month. But unlike new leaders at so many large organisations in trouble, he has no plans to bring in management consults or similar experts to map a new course for the utility.

He prefers home-grown solutions instead, and not just because they come more cheaply.

"People believe in solutions that they were partners in creating, and I think that is a very important element of any turnaround process, that you want that engagement from your team members, that they truly believe that this is the art of the possible."

Consultants "may have a place, I'm not opposed to them", but Eskom has what it needs in-house, De Ruyter says: skilled, committed people who provide a solid foundation.

The details of what, exactly, they will build remain vague outlines at best. There will be better, more disciplined maintenance of power stations, and efforts to manage electricity demand. Employee numbers "will start to trend downwards". Load shedding will hopefully come with unquantified "adequate notice".

But while he can not yet talk about the specifics of those plans, he is clear on his approach to creating them.

He intends to build partnership rather than be confrontational, De Ruyter says, whether that is in dealing with unions or with residents of Soweto who don't pay for their electricity.

Also, there will be numbers. Lots and lots of numbers.

"I am insisting that we do things on a very data-driven, very analytical basis before we make decisions," he says.

"One of the very important disciplines that I will be very firm on implementing in Eskom is that every plan has to have a business case.

"And every plan has to have numbers that we can use in order to determine whether it is a worthwhile return on investment that we get for the money that we spend."

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