Eskom’s largest union’s ultimatum to Andre de Ruyter. If you want our support this is what you need to do…

By Chris Bishop, Head of Programming at CNBC Africa

So, one of the largest unions in Africa says it is not so sure about new Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter.  It believes his appointment is against transformation and will only work with him if he abandons the unbundling of the national power generator that appears as vital to the operation as an elixir to a sick man.

READ: Why the new man at Eskom needs a backbone of steel and the eye of a hawk

There was no surprise when the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) kicked up a fuss in the wake of de Ruyter’s appointment. The union is fighting the good fight very hard these days as it struggles to regain its former strength. Once it was a powerhouse in the richest mining industry in Africa with 300,000 members – redundancies have put paid to many members and down the years many have drifted over to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). A decade ago, AMCU was a fringe union now it is the king of platinum and growing in numbers in the gold mines.

Therefore it is no surprise that the NUM is all over the media saying it does not approve of de Ruyter and will not work with him at all if he carries on with the unbundling of Eskom into three entities: generation; distribution and transmission.

“We think this is the prelude to privatisation,” says Livhuwani Mammburu, the spokesman for the NUM.

It is unlikely that Eskom will abandon the unbundling under its new leader. The national power generator has struggled on for more than a decade to provide half of Africa’s electricity. Maybe private money could help the organisation shape up with the help of the discipline of the balance sheet.

As for transformation, I think most people in business, right now, would support almost anyone from any background on earth if they could secure a supply of affordable electricity in the long term.

It is also far too early to judge the new man, yet his reputation looks promising. He was well thought of in his 20-year tenure at Sasol where he had a reputation for walking the factory floors to learn the processes of the business. De Ruyter was also seen as an expert on coal quality, which will help him in his job at Eskom.

Although union muscle flexing appears in vogue in the difficult South African economy; maybe it is time for the NUM to keep mum on this appointment. For now at least.       

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