Andre de Ruyter's appointment a setback to transformation – Irvin Jim

NUMSA says black Africans must be demographically represented in senior positions in our institutions

NUMSA statement on the appointment of Andre de Ruyter as Eskom GCEO

20 November 2019

On behalf of NUMSA, in my capacity as the NUMSA General Secretary, I was invited by Talk 702 to make commentary on the recent appointment of Andre de Ruyter as the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of Eskom on the 18th of November 2019. My commentary was rudely disrupted by the arrogance of Bruce Whitfield, the host of the Money Show. As NUMSA we have noted that he has adopted an arrogant, backward trade union bashing attitude which borders on the old, racist stereotypes which we dealt with in the old apartheid past. Recently, he did the same thing to NUMSA National spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, where he treated her with contempt and tried to belittle her in ways which border on the worst form of patriarchy and sexism.

Moving forward, NUMSA will be left with no option but to launch a campaign, urging all trade unions not to agree to do any interviews with Bruce Whitfield. We are calling on 702 to take the necessary measures against such an undemocratic and backward attitude. In a democratic country, we are free to express our views when it comes to transformation and democratisation of all South African institutions including 702, if the station is to continue being a medium and platform to voice different views, which are indicative of our diversity in this democratic dispensation. It is against this background, that NUMSA rejects with contempt the cheap arrogance of Bruce Whitfield.

What we want to categorically and unapologetically state about the appointment of Andre de Ruyter by the Eskom board is that such an appointment constitutes nothing less than a setback in the history of the transformation agenda in this country. His appointment constitutes an insult to many competent black executives – in particular black women.  NUMSA rejects the re-surfacing of the old apartheid order where in the workplace, in this country, it was a custom and practice that the majority of workers sweat and toil to deliver competitive, quality production but when it comes to senior management and executive appointments, white males are given preference over blacks.

We will never compromise on the fact that if the majority of workers are blacks and Africans and the ones delivering quality production, then they must be demographically represented in senior positions in our institutions and have a clear career path, especially in public institutions such as State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). So far, the trend and statistics in the private sector continue to insult black and African workers.

In almost all companies in the private sector it is white males who continue to occupy key positions with huge wage gaps. For instance, in 2010 the gap between ordinary workers and these untransformed CEO’s was 1728 times higher than that of ordinary workers and has since worsened.

NUMSA rejects the flimsy explanation by the Eskom board justifying the appointment of Andre de Ruyter as the GCEO. In fact, as a union we reject this appointment both morally and due to the fact that we know that Andre is appointed for his cold-blooded business practices which attack labour in particular. Therefore, for Eskom, we see his appointment as nothing else but as a vehicle to drive the privatisation, unbundling and the disposal of Eskom’s assets as well as the retrenchment of workers.

The following constitutes how NUMSA experienced Andre de Ruyter’s ruthlessness at Nampak, contrary to the glossy image painted by the board:

1.     He joined Nampak in January 2014 and the destruction of shareholder value happened during his tenure and resulted in a downhill performance. Within a few years of his arrival at Nampak from Sasol, we quickly realised that he ran the company with a team of consultants from Baine (this is the very same Bain & Company that was implicated negatively at SARS during Moyane’s tenure) and W2R. From 2012 to 2016, he significantly reduced the workforce by 60%.

2.     It is also important to state that he is not an engineer but a lawyer by profession and has no energy experience.

3.     In fact, we regard him as a specialist in auctioning and selling businesses e.g. Nampak Sacks, Nampak Corrugated, Nampak Tissue and now recently Nampak Glass because he was unable to develop a turnaround strategy for any of the underperforming divisions at Nampak. His only strategy was to sell and to close those divisions.   Furthermore, under his leadership workers were retrenched across the various Nampak divisions; even now as we speak his legacy continues at Nampak as more workers continue to be retrenched.

4.     All black executives – male and female – left Nampak upon his arrival and he led with a lily-white top executive team.

5.     In 2018, as a union we lodged a complaint to the Nampak board and to Andre de Ruyter that we cannot accept that out of the seven Executive Board members, only two were Black. He is now leaving Nampak with not a single black executive in his management team. What is even worse and irritating is that he is going to Eskom as the GCEO with Jan Oberholzer as his COO who is a retired old man who has been brought back to Eskom with absolutely no explanation.  

6.     NUMSA is shocked that in the recent past COSATU went public to state that they have been consulted in the appointment of the Eskom GCEO. We highly doubt that this was the same candidate that the alliance would have endorsed.

7.     This is the same guy who in 2017 paid himself a questionable retention bonus of R7.2 million when the share price of Nampak had plummeted from R44 to R14. Workers faced retrenchments, and their benefits were negatively affected as a result of his unilaterally imposed agenda of selling divisions, resulting in reduced benefits and conditions of workers. As we speak, at Nampak he left having served the union a Section189A notice for retrenchments in Divfood and Bevcan.

8.     The South African Energy Forum wrote to the Ministers of Mineral Resources and Energy and Public Enterprises to express their complete dismay at his  appointment, stated the following:

“We note with disbelief the appointment of Andre Marinus de Ruyter as the Eskom CEO. The track record that Pravin Gordhan has in ignoring capable black executives, while purging other black executives remains 100%. “

NUMSA is extremely disappointed and disgusted by the continuous trend where whenever Minister Pravin Gordhan is involved, black executives do not see the light of day. In fact what is becoming very clear under the so-called ‘New Dawn’ era is the re-emergence of extreme arrogance which is bolstered by the fact that the South African economy remains completely untransformed and in the hands of white monopoly capital. From this centre of concentration and centralisation of untransformed, racist white wealth, what we are experiencing is absolute arrogance because they feel that the ‘New Dawn’ does not just protect the continuation of the status quo, but it is installing them once more to run all institutions and indirectly – in a now open, and now hidden way – they are passing a vote of no confidence on black excellence.

In fact, if we must be brutally honest, racism is continuing through other means under the ANC government. To make things worse, there is a naked agenda to privatise, to drive austerity measures and to destroy black and African workers’ jobs and their hard-won gains and benefits. If we are not careful, consciously or unconsciously, what is emerging in front of our eyes is an alliance between white minority in the private sector which owns and controls of the entire South African economy and its wealth, and the selfish black petty bourgeoisie within the ANC whose political tentacles and political posture and leadership role is to manipulate and use their privileged political positions within the ruling ANC to drive an agenda whose mission and task is to maintain the current status quo where the majority which is black and African continues to be economically marginalised, dispossessed and landless. Their momentary, urgent task is to auction and privatise all the SOEs.

They have completely run out of ideas on how to stimulate economic growth.  Key to their mental blockage and complete stagnation is their right-wing ideological position and an obsession which is fixated only on one sterile belief that the state has no business in business. We must instead allow the private sector to take over all the country’s SOE’s through this myth of wholesale privatisation. However, in order for this agenda to be realised, they not only want to win the hearts and minds of the South African public to believe that there is life after death, but in order for the South African working class to realise this life after death, we must first accept the fact that before the private sector can invest, they must first destroy existing jobs.

A glaring example is what President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an interview during the Brics summit that it is an open secret that they are looking for a private equity partner at SAA. He said this against the backdrop of unions being served with a section 189A notice to retrench 944 workers. Unions are not being consulted on looking for this equity partner which is in essence about the privatisation of SAA. In light of this we are left with no option but to believe that the triggered retrenchment notice of our members at SAA can only be as a result of private equity partners who would have expressed an interest in buying a stake in SAA but on condition that 944 workers must lose their jobs.

We are left with no option but to call on all progressive formations to join in rolling mass action to defend all our SOEs, most importantly, to defend Eskom to remain in the hands of the South African public, playing such a strategic role of delivering a cheap, reliable electricity tariff to electrify all our communities and to deliver a cheap, competitive electricity tariff to the economy.

This is the reason why NUMSA rejects the clumsy appointment of fake specialist GCEOs such as Andre de Ruyter whose leadership we experienced in Nampak where he destroyed the company.  This is why NUMSA cannot welcome his appointment to oversee such a valuable and strategic asset in the history of our country such as Eskom.

Aluta continua!

The struggle continues!

Issued by Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, 20 November 2019