Former COO Jan Oberholzer leaves Eskom by mutual agreement

Eskom has confirmed the departure of its former chief operating officer, Jan Oberholzer, in a mutually agreed decision. Oberholzer, who had been with Eskom for over three decades, was on a fixed-term contract to support critical projects. His retirement in April was followed by an offer for a contract position to oversee initiatives addressing the country’s power crisis. The COO role was abolished by the Eskom board earlier this year, attributing improved power station performance to the elimination of the position. Oberholzer’s potential suspension regarding a controversial security contract has also been reported. The news comes two weeks to the day since BizNews published a revealing interview with Oberholzer – click here.

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Jan Oberholzer leaves Eskom “by mutual agreement”

By Jan Vermeulen

Eskom has announced the departure of its former chief operating officer Jan Oberholzer in a brief statement issued on Monday.

“Eskom and Mr Jan Oberholzer part ways by mutual agreement. His last day with Eskom will be 31 July 2023,” the state-owned power utility said.

Oberholzer was on a fixed-term contract to provide support to the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station Long-Term Operation and the Kusile Power Station projects.

“Eskom expresses gratitude to Mr Jan Oberholzer for his dedicated service, expertise and valuable contributions during his tenure. We wish him well in his future endeavours.”

Read more: Ex-Eskom COO Oberholzer’s inside story on loadshedding, transformation, CR’s plan

Oberholzer officially retired in April after turning 65. He had been at Eskom for over 30 years.

In May, EE Business Intelligence reported that he had been offered a contract position at the power utility to oversee projects aimed at pulling South Africa out of its power crisis.

The Eskom board announced in February that it would not appoint a replacement and instead eliminate the COO position following Oberholzer’s retirement.

Eskom did not have a COO until Oberholzer’s appointment in 2018. With the power utility set to be unbundled, the board’s official position was that an executive who oversaw distribution, generation, and transmission didn’t make much sense.

Board chair Mpho Makwana told Bloomberg in June that scrapping the COO post helped improve power station performance.

Makwana said the change gave individual plant managers more direct access to senior executives, improving morale.

Read more: Nicholas Woode-Smith: The ANC’s deliberate failures – South Africa’s path to collapse

Mail & Guardian also reported three weeks ago that the Eskom board was weighing whether to suspend Oberholzer for failing to red-flag Eskom’s controversial R250-million private security contract while he was COO.

Questions have been raised about the value and circumstances in which the contract was awarded to Fidelity Services Group, with rivals claiming they could have offered the same services at a fraction of the price.

However, Fidelity disputed this saying they supplied land and air support with helicopter and tactical drone surveillance capabilities, specialised armoured personnel carriers, tactical intervention units, crowd control, and access control.

Read more: Lings: Decoded Eskom data, unleashed private sector brings SA hope for loadshedding’s end

“Fidelity’s Business Centre, as well as National Command Centres, were utilised for operational compliance and execution,” Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann told MyBroadband.

Eskom awarded the emergency contract following its wage dispute with unions in June 2022, which turned into destructive riots at its power stations and employees’ homes.

The unions denied any involvement with the attacks, saying their members were acting of their own accord. Yet, when Eskom returned to the negotiating table, the attacks stopped.

At one stage, the attacks got so bad that Eskom called a media briefing, during which public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan showed pictures of employees’ homes and cars that were fire-bombed and tyres slashed.

Gordhan said at the time that the protests were the main reason South Africa had slipped into constant stage 6 load-shedding.

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This article was first published by MyBroadband and is republished with permission.