S.Africa’s Eskom chair resigns after power cuts during holidays

Eskom’s chairman Jabu Mabuza gestures during the 2018/19 interim results at the Eskom’s head office at Megawatt Park, in Sunninghill, South Africa, November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The chairman of struggling South African state-owned utility Eskom, Jabu Mabuza, resigned on Friday after apologising for failing to halt power cuts over the Christmas and New Year public holidays, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said.

Eskom implemented severe nationwide power cuts in several bursts last year and again sporadically this week, despite low electricity demand as many businesses and factories were closed for the holidays. [nL8N29E0JX]

Eskom officials had told Ramaphosa at a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Dec. 11 that there would be no power cuts from mid-December until mid-January. [nL8N28L1K1]

“In the wake of Mr Mabuza’s resignation, government will soon announce a re-configured Eskom board with the appropriate mix of electricity industry, engineering and corporate governance experience,” Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement.

The power cuts implemented by Eskom dented economic output last year and sapped investor confidence in Ramaphosa’s efforts to turn around Africa’s most industrialised economy.

Eskom supplies more than 90% of the country’s power, but repeated faults at its creaking fleet of coal-fired power plants mean it struggles to meet electricity demand.

Mabuza was appointed to the Eskom board of directors shortly after Ramaphosa became leader of the governing African National Congress party in December 2017.

Mabuza’s resignation comes the same week that Eskom’s new Chief Executive Andre de Ruyter took up his post. De Ruyter will oversee a government plan to split the company into three units after its previous chief executive stepped down. [nL8N29B1RV]

Eskom said in a statement on Friday that power cuts would stop at 11 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday before resuming at 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Reporting by Alexander Winning, Emma Rumney and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Frances Kerry

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