The FW de Klerk Foundation expresses great concern over the resignation of Andre de Ruyter, CEO of Eskom, on 14 December 2022.
While the Foundation respects De Ruyter’s decision to step down amidst the constant attacks on his person and professional credentials from the highest political office bearers, it leaves the already struggling power utility with a vacuum of decisive leadership, which it needs more now than ever before.
The Foundation commends De Ruyter and his team for their efforts to turn Eskom around and root out corruption, mismanagement and blatant sabotage. The resignation demonstrates that without political will and support, all efforts by experienced managers and technical staff to save Eskom and provide a reliable electricity supply to South African households and businesses, will be in vain.
South Africa has experienced more than 3,233 hours of load shedding- with almost 200 days of rolling blackouts this year alone. Disruptions at this scale halt the economy, cripple business and deter any domestic or international investment. With the resignation of De Ruyter, it is very unlikely that this dire situation will improve – as some high-ranking members of the ANC want to make the public believe. The contrary can be expected if there is not a drastic change of mindset within the ANC leadership, followed by decisive action.
The Eskom crisis, with its devastating consequences on South Africa’s economy and the wellbeing of its people, raises some uncomfortable questions about accountability, responsibility and ultimately about the government’s constitutional obligation to take remedial action.
Accountability of those exercising public power is one of the founding values of the South African Constitution and its importance is repeatedly asserted in a range of provisions in the Constitution. Chapter 3, Section 41 of the Constitution provides that all spheres of government and all organs of state within each sphere must …(c) “provide effective, transparent, accountable and coherent government for the Republic as a whole.”
Accountability is again recognised as one of the key values of public administration in Section 195 of the Constitution which provides that “Public administration must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution, including the following principles: …(f) public administration must be accountable.”
The Constitution clearly states that these principles not only apply to administration in every sphere of government but also to organs of state; and public enterprises, such as Eskom and other SOEs.
From a Bill of Rights perspective, it can be argued that the right to electricity, albeit not expressed in the text of the Constitution, is a condition for the exercise of other rights, including the rights to human dignity and access to adequate housing, water and health care.
The FW de Klerk Foundation calls on President Ramaphosa and his government to honour its Constitutional obligations and show the political will to effectively deal with the current electricity crisis. The resignation of De Ruyter is a clear message for the ANC-led government that business as usual – or politics as usual – is not an option.