Head of South Africa’s troubled power company, Eskom, quits

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The chief executive of South Africa’s troubled power utility Eskom has resigned amid high levels of nationwide power blackouts of up to 10 hours daily.

The resignation of Andre de Ruyter comes amid pressure from the public and various stakeholders as Eskom has failed to keep the lights on, plunging South Africa, the continent’s most developed, into an electricity crisis that appears to be worsening.

The state-owned Eskom confirmed De Ruyter’s resignation Wednesday. He will stay on until March 31 “to ensure continuity while we urgently embark on a search for his successor,” said Eskom Board Chairman Mpho Makwana.

Eskom is not able to generate adequate power for South Africa’s consumption and the country has had rolling power cuts for years. But in recent weeks the situation has become much more serious with power cuts of up to 10 hours per day.

Ongoing mechanical breakdowns at the country’s aging coal-fired power stations and backlogs in their maintenance could lead to even longer power cuts that may last 12 to 14 hours per day, experts warn.

De Ruyter has recently faced criticism from Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The country’s failure to secure a stable power supply has been one of the vexing challenges to President Cyril Ramaphosa and is expected to be one of the key issues at the upcoming national conference of the ruling African National Congress.

De Ruyter was appointed Eskom chief executive in December 2019 following years of power cuts and wide-ranging allegations of corruption at the utility.

A judicial probe into corruption in government and state-owned enterprises placed Eskom at the center of massive revelations about corruption in government during former President Jacob Zuma’s tenure from 2009 to 2018.

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