It appears to be a case of third time lucky for Eskom chief executive Phakamani Hadebe, after the beleaguered parastatal finally accepted his resignation following two unsuccessful attempts to leave the post.
Hadebe’s resignation was announced by Eskom on Friday, citing the toll the job was taking on his health as grounds for his departure.
According to City Press’ sister publication Rapport, Hadebe is believed to have collapsed at work on two separate occasions and had to be taken to hospital by ambulance. Eskom would not, however, confirm this.
A reliable source within Eskom claimed that Hadebe twice attempted to hand in his resignation, but was persuaded to stay.
In a press release issued by the power utility on Friday, Hadebe said it was “no secret that this role comes with unimaginable demands, which have unfortunately had a negative impact on my health. In the best interests of Eskom and my family, I have therefore decided to step down.”
He is expected to leave office at the end of July.
Hadebe’s resignation comes less than a year after he was appointed to lead the utility out of the quagmire of corruption and the largest financial crisis it has ever faced.
Eskom is presently busy finalising its financial statements and indications are that it will show a loss of more than R20 billion.
Even more concerning is the possibility that auditors may qualify its financials because it is unable to meet its obligations.
According to analysts, Eskom will require government assistance to the tune of R250 billion in addition to the R69 billion over three years that was budgeted for in February.
Adding to the uncertainty is the question of whether Eskom’s political head, Pravin Gordhan, will be reappointed as minister of public enterprises.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to announce his new Cabinet in the next few days, but a negative finding by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, in relation to his activities when he was commissioner of the SA Revenue Service, could be used to put pressure on Ramaphosa to leave Gordhan out of the Cabinet.
Gordhan has indicated that he will have Mkhwebane’s findings reviewed.
Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza yesterday told Rapport that Hadebe’s resignation was unexpected but “understandable”.
“Luckily we’ll still work together for another two months during the transition period. It’s going to be a challenge replacing him,” he said.
But professor Anton Eberhard, the chairperson of Ramaphosa’s task team on Eskom’s sustainability, welcomed Hadebe’s resignation.
He tweeted: “Thank goodness. What has been known behind the scenes since April is now official and public. Now we need urgently to strengthen both executive management and the board at South Africa’s national power utility.”