Eskom CEO takes flack from NUM for ‘poor performance’

By Paul Burkhardt

(Bloomberg) – The biggest labour group at South Africa’s Eskom Holdings blamed “poor leadership” for ongoing nationwide power cuts, a discordant sign as the utility embarks on a plan to become profitable again.

The National Union of Mineworkers is “very disappointed with the performance” of Eskom Chief Executive Officer Andre de Ruyter and the lack of a plan to prevent outages, it said in a statement. The group also continues to oppose the use of independent electricity producers, which Eskom is counting on to help increase generation.

South Africa could experience power shortages through at least April, presenting another threat to an economy already hampered by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Eskom is saddled with R464bn ($31.3bn) of debt and has been unable to provide reliable power since 2008, when outages began.

“Eskom has regularly communicated its plan to improve the performance of the power stations and to reduce loadshedding,” the utility said in response to questions, using a local term for power cuts. There is “a good working relationship with its labor representatives, including the NUM,” it said.

The NUM, which represents about a third of Eskom’s more than 44,772-strong workforce, urged the government to change the leadership at Eskom. Relations between the labor union and management have been strained in the past over issues including wages.

The government-guaranteed tranche of Eskom 2028 debt yielded 4.7% by 12:40pm in Johannesburg. They traded at 4.6% on January 4, the lowest since they began trading in 2018.

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