Executive Insights

5 things we didn't know about Phakamani Hadebe, Eskom’s new CEO

Business Insider SA
Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe during the state entity's interim results announcement at Megawatt Park, Johannesburg, in January (Gallo mages / Felix Dlangamandla)

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday made permanent Phakamani Hadebe's position as Eskom CEO. He has been acting head for the past four months.

Hadebe's appointment follows the "excellent work" done at Eskom since he joined Eskom, Gordhan said at a press briefing

"Hadebe has experience at the Land Bank and Treasury, he had a stint at banking institution Absa, he is competent to steer Eskom and stabilise the institution and position it for its role in the economy,” Gordhan said. 

Energy expert Grové Steyn of Meridian Economics says Hadebe's prospects of success at Eskom may significantly improve if Eskom chair Jabu Mabuza is closely involved, and the two work well together. Steyn says Mabuza has strong experience as Telkom chairperson in turning around a large business in a newly competitive environment.

Here are five things we didn’t know about Hadebe:

The Land Bank reported a massive turnaround – a year after he took over as CEO.

Much as is the case with Eskom, Hadebe was appointed in July 2008 to save the Land Bank from corruption that pushed the agricultural bank into bankruptcy, BusinessLive reported. After one year at the helm, the entity reported an R145 million profit, up from an R180 million loss in 2008. The Bank’s profit nearly doubled by 2010 to more than R345 million. (Eskom is 500 times larger than the Land Bank.)

He believes it takes years, not months, to expose corruption.

In January, the specialised commercial crimes court in Pretoria convicted former Land Bank CEO Philemon Mohlahlane, former Gauteng MEC for housing Daniel Mofokeng, former ANC MP Reuben Mohlaloga, and lawyers Dinga Rammy Nkhwashu and Dingamanzi ka Dinga for corruption. "That’s how long it takes to prove a case of corruption in the courts," Hadebe told Business Live. "Not many people would remember what happened at the Land Bank all those years back."

He was allegedly overlooked for a promotion at Absa.

Hadebe left Absa in 2017, three years after joining the organisation, apparently because he was not appointed the head of corporate and investment banking, City Press reported. At the time, the bank said he left for “personal reasons”. More than a dozen employees staged a walkout in protest after he resigned.

He is a former economics professor at the University of KwaZulu Natal.

Hadebe, who hails from Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, was an economics lecturer at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He joined the National Treasury in 2003 as Head of Assets and Liabilities, responsible for government debt management and sovereign risk management. Hadebe holds a masters in Economics from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, a masters in Rural Development from the University of Sussex, and worked at the IMF in 1997.

He avoids confrontation.

Hadebe is widely respected for being approachable. "He's not just a good people's manager, he's a good human being," SA Reserve Bank governor Lesetja Kganyago told Huffington Post. Officials at Treasury told the publication that he avoids confrontation, but is a technocrat and a policy wonk. Business Live’s Sikonathi Mantshantsha wrote that his “simple demeanour and warm smile” hide a “determined and steely resolve to root out the cancer of corruption.”

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