Eskom: Mixed reactions to Tshediso Matona and co suspensions

MARCH 12, 2015

There have been mixed reactions across the spectrum after power utility, Eskom, announced the suspension of its Chief Executive, Tshediso Matona, and three other senior executives - Finance director Tsholofelo Molefe, group capital executive Dan Marokane and technology and commercial executive Matshela Ko - to allow for an inquiry into the operations of the utility.

Eskom, which provides virtually all the electricity in South Africa, is facing a funding crunch as it races to bring new power plants online and is implementing power cuts to prevent the grid from being overwhelmed.

Matona was appointed to the position six months ago.

In February, government announced a R23 billion investment into Eskom this year.

“I believe this crisis and the suspensions at Eskom have everything to do with massive cost and time overruns at Medupi, Kusile and Ingula,” EE Publishers MD and energy expert Chris Yelland tweeted.

“South Africans should brace for announcements by the Eskom board of massive further cost overruns at Medupi and Kusile in the days ahead.”

“I smell a rat on the ESKOM suspensions. Why new CEO suspended by a chair who have been there for years in order to establish facts - fishy!” Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, tweeted.

“I am completely stunned. First Zola Tsotsi presides over deterioration of #Eskom, then he suspends the execs who only just got appointed,” tweeted journalist, Carol Paton.

"There is nothing sinister happening," said Tsotsi, who said he was just the messenger. "This is a fact-finding inquiry ... which will last for three months."

"If in the process of this fact-finding process we find that there is improper conduct, then we will have to address those things," he said. "But we are not setting out with that in mind."

Meanwhile, trade union, Solidarity, said that it welcomes the suspensions.

According to Deon Botha, head of the Energy Industry at Solidarity, said the independent inquiry avails the opportunity to make the necessary adjustments to the utility's management style.

"The way in which Eskom was being managed in recent years has led to highly skilled and experienced individuals leaving the service of the organization.

“Eskom employees have lost confidence in the top management and the first task of the new head must be to create confidence among employees," he said.

Botha also expressed hope that the independent inquiry would see people with expertise and experience, rather than individuals with political connections, being appointed by Eskom in the future.

"The time has come for Eskom to be managed as a business, and not a government department," said Botha.