Johannesburg – The outgoing CEO of South Africa’s beleaguered state-owned power utility, who was due to leave the company next month, has left with immediate effect, Eskom said on Wednesday, amid a worsening energy crisis.
Andre de Ruyter, who took over as CEO in 2020, resigned in December but was due to vacate office at the end of March to give Eskom time to find a successor.
But the firm’s board resolved on Wednesday that he “will not be required to serve the balance of his notice period” and “will be released from his position with immediate effect”, a company statement said.
The shock announcement came just hours after De Ruyter gave an interview with local eNCA television, where he expressed doubts about the political will in government to end endemic graft at the power utility.
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De Ruyter has said he suffered an attempted poisoning attempt in December, shortly after he tendered his resignation.
He told local media that he drank coffee laced with cyanide. A police investigation is ongoing.
Africa’s most industrialised country has laboured under crippling power shortages as Eskom fails to keep pace with demand and maintain its ageing coal power infrastructure.
But the outages have reached new extremes, with the country experiencing a record 207 days of power outages last year alone, compared to 75 days in 2021.
The power cuts have hampered economic growth, disrupting commerce and industry, with lights often going off several times a day for up to 12 hours.
De Ruyter had come under pressure from some government ministers who accused the company of not properly attending to the crisis, which analysts say is the result of years of mismanagement, disrepair and corruption.
Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a national state of disaster and the appointment of an electricity minister to try intensify the response to the crisis.
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