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Former Eskom executives seek SA’s toughest CEO job

Applications include former LNG Canada CEO Andy Calitz and Eskom’s former head of group capital, Dan Marokane.

The chief executive role at Eskom, considered the most challenging job in corporate South Africa, is attracting interest from people who know how difficult turning around the debt-ridden state utility will be.

Andy Calitz, the former CEO of LNG Canada, who started his career as an electrical engineer at Eskom and later held various senior posts at Royal Dutch Shell, confirmed he applied for the job and declined to comment further. Dan Marokane, Eskom’s former head of group capital, has also applied, according to a person with direct knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorised to comment. Marokane declined to comment.

Business leaders suggested to Eskom’s board that former CEOs Brian Dames and Jacob Maroga also be considered for the post, according to another person familiar with the information, who asked not to be identified because it isn’t public. Neither responded to a request for comment.

Phakamani Hadebe stepped down as head of the utility at the end of last month, and Chairman Jabu Mabuza has temporarily taken over the position until a permanent appointment is made.

Debt mountain

Eskom’s new leader will have to turn around a company that supplies about 95% of the country’s power yet isn’t generating enough income to cover its costs, is saddled with R440 billion ($28.9 billion) of debt and poses a serious threat to the entire South African economy. The government has given the utility a three-year, R128-billion bailout, but that’s unlikely to be enough to get its finances back on track.

Maroga’s departure from Eskom was acrimonious — the utility said it accepted his offer to resign in 2010, but he claimed he’d been unlawfully dismissed and filed an unsuccessful application for reinstatement.

Marokane was one of three executives, including then-CEO Tshediso Matona, who were suspended by Eskom’s board in 2015 amid an independent inquiry into the electricity producer’s performance. They eventually agreed to part ways amicably, and Eskom said it had never alleged that Marokane was guilty of misconduct or wrongdoing.

Applications for the CEO role closed on August 2. Mabuza last month said he’d relinquish the post by the end of October.

© 2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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Honestly I think most of the applicants are just going for the salary package? What prevents them from quitting after just a few months?

Maybe I should apply. I could not do a worse job than most of the previous bosses and could use the nice salary and the even nicer retrenchment/retirement package. Unfortunately I am white.

There’s 2 applicants. So, what does “most of the applicants” mean?

Brian Dames? Didn’t he oversee the failed Medupe and Kusile projects with Gigaba as minister?

2 of these guys flopped spectacularly. Andries Carlitz was a very impressive executive.

Don’t know his track record, but I’d guess it’s very good. But he’s white of course, and that will be a big problem.

A normal government would look for the best person, no, top structure, from around the world, to save Eskom (and SA).

However, it is all in vain if there is no clear backing from government.

It is obvious who the new CEO should be, Ted Bloem.

He isn’t an applicant – Calitz has terrific qualifications and international experience. His race won’t be an issue at this critical point, surely. However, how much backing will he get from unions?

I know Calitz from school and university. He was an outstanding student and rounded human being and would be an excellent choice.

His, and anybody else’s success as CEO depends on a clear mandate from Government, the treasury and the trade unions.

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