The appointment of a new CEO at Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned power utility, has once again hit a roadblock. This time, the delay is due to a dispute over the age of the prospective candidates.
According to a leaked letter from public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan to Eskom’s chairperson Mpho Makwana, the board has been instructed to consider candidates over the age of 60 to replace former CEO Andre de Ruyter, who left the company in February.
The Age Controversy
Initially, candidates over the age of 60 were excluded from the selection process. However, Minister Gordhan’s letter states that the board should now include candidates above 60. He points out that Eskom’s condition of service allows for permanent employment up to the age of 65, and the age limit of 65 years doesn’t apply to the position of GCEO (Group Chief Executive Officer) as they are not a member of the pension fund.
While South African labour laws do not specify a general retirement age, the laws relating to the Government Employees Pension Fund allow employees to retire at 55, 60, or 65 years of age. For non-government employees, the ordinary retirement age is generally considered to be 60 or 65. However, employees cannot be forced to retire unless their employment contract or a rule sets a specified retirement age.
Gordhan’s Rejection and Suspicions
Last week, Minister Gordhan rejected the recommendations from Eskom’s board because they only shortlisted one candidate instead of the required three. This decision has raised concerns and suspicions among some members of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA). DA MP Ghaleb Cachalia suggested that the ANC (African National Congress) cadre deployment committee might be attempting to influence the appointment process to appoint a candidate approved by Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters.
Cachalia accused Gordhan of hiding behind Eskom’s Memorandum of Incorporation to justify his refusal to consider the board’s recommendation. Given the ANC’s history of interference and corruption at Eskom, Cachalia’s concerns are not unfounded. The party has previously deployed individuals to the entity who were later implicated in state capture and contributed to its institutional collapse.
The ongoing dispute over the age of prospective candidates for the CEO position at Eskom continues to delay the appointment process. The requirement to consider candidates over the age of 60 has sparked controversy and raised suspicions of political interference. As the search for a new CEO drags on, it is crucial that the selection process remains transparent, fair, and free from political influence to ensure the future success and stability of Eskom.