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S.Africa Names New Eskom Board Amid Power Crisis

Locals walk past electricity pylons during frequent power outages from South African utility Eskom, caused by its aging coal-fired plants, in Orlando, Soweto, South Africa, September 28, 2022.

South Africa's government appointed a new board of directors for troubled state-owned power provider Eskom on Friday after energy outages hit record levels this year.

With unstable coal-fired power plants and a pile of debt, Eskom has struggled to fulfill Africa's most industrialized nation's electrical demand for more than a decade.

Mpho Makwana, who formerly sat on the Eskom board and currently leads the Nedbank NEDJ.J board, will chair the new board, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said at a press conference on Friday.

Gordhan told reporters that Andre de Ruyter remained Eskom chief executive officer and Calib Cassim chief financial officer, but the new board is expected to review their performance as well as that of the entire management.

Other new board members include senior business figures like Mteto Nyati, who has held executive positions at telecoms company MTN MTNJ.J and technology firm Altron, and former trade unionist Bheki Ntshalintshali.

Since taking office in 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa has been working to overhaul the state-owned firm to make it more efficient, but his government has made little progress, stoking public dissatisfaction.

But Ramaphosa made fresh pledges to tackle the country's power crisis in July, including slashing red tape and buying surplus electricity from private producers.

The finance minister Enoch Godongwana is also expected to outline government plans to deal with Eskom's roughly 400 billion rand ($22 billion) debt burden at next month's mid-term budget. He has said there is agreement that the government will have to take on some of Eskom's debt, but the question remains how much of it the state could absorb.

Since January 2020 Eskom's board has been headed by Malegapuru William Makgoba, who took up the post after the previous chairman resigned following another period of major power cuts.

Eskom's spokesman declined comment on the board appointments, saying they were a shareholder affair, referring to the government.