President Cyril Ramaphosa has hit back at criticism that the appointment of Andre de Ruyter as the new Eskom CEO was anti-transformative, insisting that De Ruyter had the appropriate skills for the job.
Speaking at a fundraising gala dinner of the SACP on Friday evening, Ramaphosa said his government had not turned its back on transformation.
He defended the decision to appoint a white CEO, saying multiple processes had resulted in his appointment.
Ramaphosa invoked the words of Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping who famously said that “it doesn't matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice”.
“Some of the criticism has been that because we have chosen someone who is not black, someone who is not African, that we have now we regressed, we have moved backward. The transformation agenda of the SA government under the leadership of the ANC, and under my leadership and Pravin Gordhan’s leadership, has now taken a number of steps backward,” the president said.
He said since 1994 all 11 CEOs of Eskom have been black.
“We have affirmed black people in our state-owned enterprises. This time around we have come up with the person who we think has the appropriate skills,” Ramaphosa said.
He described the process in the run-up to De Ruyter’s appointment this week saying the process began with the board of Eskom who hired a headhunting firm.
“Once they made their preferred selection, I said I wanted to go through another process, so that we can be absolutely certain. I even asked the question of how many black people applied,” Ramaphosa said.
He said public enterprises minister Gordhan went back and conducted two other processes and came back with the recommendation that De Ruyter was the right man for the job.
“Transformation should not only be seen as the person that leads but should be seen through the full body of the organisation,” Ramaphosa said.
De Ruyter is the outgoing CEO of Nampak and will take over steering the ship at Eskom in January 2020.
“We will continue to have black people being appointed to the leadership of our state-owned enterprises as we go forward. This is a commitment we will never turn back on,” Ramaphosa said.
He said while the ANC was irrevocably committed to transformation it was as committed to non-racialism.