Eskom loses another top engineer

ESKOM has suffered another blow as its top engineer and head of the national grid resigned with effect from the end of this month.

As head of systems operations and planning, Robbie van Heerden was responsible for controlling the load on the national grid and reported to group transmission head Thava Govender.

The utility has been bleeding skills and has experienced high-profile resignations during the past two years.

Out of eight executive committee members, including acting CEO Brian Molefe and finance director Nonkululeko Veleti, only two are permanent appointees.

Mr van Heerden is one of at least five senior managers who have left the organisation during the past year, including nuclear specialist Tony Stott, Erica Johnson and Steve Lennon.

The latter two were members of the executive committee, and all left in March after long careers at the utility.

Their departures opened up posts that remain unfilled in the executive committee.

Some of the senior managers accepted voluntary separation packages initiated in November to rein in costs.

This year, the utility was forced to cancel the voluntary retrenchment programme after being overwhelmed by applications from staff who wanted to leave.

Mr van Heerden on Wednesday said that he had resigned to attend to family matters.

His family situation is known to Business Day.

Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed Mr van Heerden’s resignation.

As head of system planning and operations, Mr van Heerden oversaw load shedding.

Sources close to Eskom said the utility was working on a possible solution that would allow Mr van Heerden to look after his family while continuing with his job.

A senior manager, who asked not to be named, said: "Officially he’s resigned, but there’s a good chance he will not be leaving.

"We are doing everything we can to accommodate his situation. Eskom is a big family and we can’t let him suffer alone."

Mr van Heerden’s departure, if it comes to pass, will come a month after former finance director Tsholofelo Molefe and group capital head Dan Marokane agreed to leave the utility after being placed on suspension in March — along with former CEO Tshediso Matona, who resigned in April after Mr Molefe’s appointment.

Eskom has been battling with meeting electricity demand since 2008, when it first instituted rolling blackouts because of ageing generation infrastructure.

The dwindling generation capacity has negatively affected Eskom’s finances, with a R225bn revenue shortfall still needing to be closed, even after the state gave the utility a R23bn cash injection in June and a R60bn debt conversion to equity.


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