Pretoria – Troubles at power utility Eskom continue to swell, manifesting in the failure to generate adequate electricity because the state-owned entity lacks appropriate leadership skills at its apex.
Former statistician-general and former head of Statistics South Africa, Dr Pali Lehohla, made the remarks during an interview with broadcaster Newzroom Afrika which delved into the impact of load shedding.
“Eskom is an engineering cum economic behemoth. It is an engineering animal and an economic animal. At the moment, it is not led by engineers, nor by economists. So, you cannot expect it to perform. Instead, it is led by politicians and accountants and they are trying to understand the logic of Eskom,” said the outspoken academic.
“Accountants cannot understand the logic of Eskom. It needs economists to understand that logic and they must translate that from an engineer’s perspective into an economic vehicle. Now, an accountant is trying to translate the politician perspective of Eskom.
“You cannot end up with anything else but a mess. You should remove the politics from Eskom, and you should remove the accountants from Eskom and get the engineer to lead Eskom supported by economists,” he added.
A cabinet meeting led by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday to look into various issues, chief among them the electricity crisis bedevilling South Africa, has “expressed regret” over the blackouts.
Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said the executive heard a briefing presented by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on the capacity of Eskom.
Lehohla said it would benefit South Africa immensely to have a qualified engineer like former Eskom chief executive officer Matshela Koko to lead the struggling entity.
“If you listen to Matshela Koko who has vested his energies in this … I don’t care, deploy him there and arrest him later if you find him guilty of some other things. At least listen to him because he is one engineer who has been consistent on this. [Former Eskom CEO Jacob] Maroga has been consistent on this. [Energy expert Ted] Blom has been an engineer consistent on this, the things that need to happen at Eskom. They are not listened to,” he said.
“The politicians are not listening. The accountants in Eskom do not want to listen to that. These are people who spent their time in Eskom. Knowing what Eskom has to do.”
At the political level, Lehohla said there was “absolute failure of strategy”.
Earlier this week, local media reported that Ramaphosa had cut short his working visits to the United States and the United Kingdom amid growing calls for him to deal with South Africa’s deepening power crisis.
Ramaphosa met US President Joe Biden in Washington DC for bilateral talks last week, before flying to London to attend the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, on Monday.