When André de Ruyter took over as Eskom CEO in January 2020, he quickly realised why it was considered the toughest job in South Africa. His account takes the reader inside the boardrooms and government meetings where South Africa’s future is shaped, with ministers often pulling in conflicting directions, and reflects on his three years at the power utility, his successes and failures, his reasons for leaving and his hopes for the future.
The 12th of December 2022 was destined to be the day that would bring matters to the boil. As I did my morning exercises, I knew of one pivotal moment, little knowing that there would be many more that day.
At 07:30, I met Mpho Makwana for my six-monthly performance appraisal. The Dainfern clubhouse, where I had first met him, was in a state of disarray at this early Monday hour, with cleaning crews polishing floors, and noisy leaf-blowers operating outside. Having a formal performance review was a rather unusual exercise at the level of CEO, although HR policies required these processes.
More importantly, in appointing the new board, Pravin Gordhan had promised the country that all executives would be subject to rigorous performance reviews, to establish a culture of accountability. The minister also promised to share the results of these performance reviews with South Africa, which threatened to turn into an unappetising exercise, not of public accountability, but of scapegoating. I therefore had less than my usual relish for the engagement, but I also had an ace up my sleeve.
With his characteristic fondness for all things digital, Mpho flipped open his iPad Pro, and opened my performance contract,…