Eskom’s group executive for generation, Matshela Koko has been named the front runner for the utility’s chief executive position following Brian Molefe’s shocking resignation on Friday.
While Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe was saying on Friday that it was too early to pronounce Molefe’s replacement, about two sources who are familiar with the developments in the utility, said Koko who was among four executives suspended by former chairman Zola Tsotsi last year, was the most likely successor to Molefe.
Koko has been the most vocal Eskom executive about the nuclear build programme and Eskom’s displeasure with the costs of renewable energy.
Matshela Koko previously headed Eskom’s technology and commercial business. He said in September that Eskom could pay for the nuclear build programme by cash reserves which he said would have accumulated to R150 billion in 10 years’ time.
While his former colleagues, including Tshediso Matona, former chief executive, settled with the utility, Matshela Koko held out and eventually returned to the crucial generation head role.
Emerging markets economist Peter Attard Montalto of Nomura said that Eskom would probably appoint someone willing to facilitate “rent extraction” and who would ensure the implementation of the nuclear programme.
“The last good chief executive, Matona, was out after just a few months because he was too clean. They will not make that mistake again,” he said.
Meanwhile, Eskom described Molefe as one who helped to grow the utility. It said since he joined the utility in April last year, Molefe and his executive management team had turned around the company’s operational and financial performance, with 15 months of no load shedding.
“The improved performance of the power generating units coupled with additional capacity from some of our new build projects has resulted in a stable power system, with excess capacity being exported to neighbouring states,” Eskom said.
Molefe announced his resignation following his rumored closeness to the Gupta family. His public utterances laid a fertile ground for suggestions in the public protector’s report that Eskom was bending over backwards for Tegeta Exploration & Resources.
“The news of Molefe’s resignation is not totally unexpected,” Johan Muller, the programme manager for energy and environment for Africa at Frost & Sullivan, said on Friday.
“Since the report recommends further judicial investigations, one can understand that Molefe did the right thing to resign, in order to avoid any loss of focus and avoid conflict of interest in the next 12 months while these investigations are launched.
“What Eskom needs is a leader that understands energy, business, economics, strategy, politics and where there is no doubt as to any corrupt activity on his part,” Muller said.
Montalto on the other hand, accused Molefe of losing credibility since his name was mentioned in Thuli’s report.
“We need to understand, however, the rot at Eskom goes much deeper – the whole board needs to be replaced and there are many others there also implicated in the public protector report,” he said.
Meanwhile, Brown said she was saddened by Molefe’s resignation. But that he would work closely with the board to ensure that the company remains stable.