Ma­tona takes on the tough­est job in town

TAKES ON THE TOUGH­EST JOB IN TOWN

CityPress - - Business - MOYAGABO MAAKE moyagabo.maake@city­press.co.za see box).

Walk­ing a path well trod­den by Maria Ramos and Brian Molefe be­fore him, Tshediso Ma­tona will make the shift from se­nior civil ser­vant to paras­tatal CEO next month.

Public En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Lynne Brown said on Wed­nes­day that Ma­tona, cur­rently the direc­tor-gen­eral in her depart­ment – a job he has held for three years – would suc­ceed Brian Dames as CEO of Eskom, tak­ing over from act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Collin Matjila on Septem­ber 1. He is the first out­sider to lead the util­ity in 10 years, but not the first bu­reau­crat to lead a paras­tatal. Ramos was the direc­tor-gen­eral at Trea­sury for seven years be­fore join­ing lo­gis­tics com­pany Transnet, where she stayed for five years, turn­ing it into a prof­itable busi­ness in the process.

Molefe was the deputy direc­tor-gen­eral re­spon­si­ble for as­set and li­a­bil­ity man­age­ment at Trea­sury be­fore join­ing the Public In­vest­ment Cor­po­ra­tion as chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2003, so Ma­tona is in good com­pany.

Ma­tona is not speak­ing to the me­dia un­til he meets with the Eskom board.

Ac­cord­ing to an abridged CV pro­vided by the depart­ment of public en­ter­prises, he holds a mas­ter’s de­gree in devel­op­ment eco­nom­ics from the UK’s Univer­sity of East Anglia, and hon­ours de­grees in eco­nom­ics and po­lit­i­cal sci­ence from the Univer­sity of Cape Town (UCT). He also has cer­tifi­cates in ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment and in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment from Har­vard Univer­sity.

Most of his work­ing life was spent in the realm of trade and in­vest­ment – from his days churn­ing out aca­demic pa­pers for the Trade Pol­icy Mon­i­tor­ing Project as a UCT stu­dent to the top post at the depart­ment of trade and in­dus­try, where he was direc­tor-gen­eral for five years be­fore leav­ing for public en­ter­prises.

He will be deal­ing with a util­ity in the grips of an acute cash flow cri­sis that has prompted the for­ma­tion of an in­ter­min­is­te­rial task team to avert a Stan­dard & Poor’s down­grade to junk sta­tus for the util­ity’s credit rat­ing, which would con­sid­er­ably raise its bor­row­ing costs.

Brown said Ma­tona played a key role in this task team, giv­ing him in­ti­mate knowl­edge of Eskom’s chal­lenges.

Ma­tona will also have to work to sta­bilise Eskom’s cap­i­tal po­si­tion, tackle its main­te­nance and plant prob­lems, and en­sure the first unit of its flag­ship project, the Medupi power plant in Lepha­lale, comes on stream on time (

Shaun Nel, spokesper­son for the En­ergy In­ten­sive User Group, which rep­re­sents large in­dus­trial busi­nesses that con­sume about 44% of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity, in­ti­mated this was achiev­able, and said it would work closely with Ma­tona on this.

In­dus­try play­ers hold mixed views on Ma­tona’s ap­point­ment.

An­ton Eber­hard, an en­ergy and in­fra­struc­ture spe­cial­ist and a mem­ber of the Na­tional Plan­ning Com­mis­sion, tweeted: “Eskom em­ploys 47 000 and has rev­enues of R140 bil­lion [per year]. I would have thought a new CEO should have ex­pe­ri­ence of man­ag­ing a large cor­po­ra­tion.”

But Nel shied away from ques­tions about Ma­tona’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“The En­ergy In­ten­sive User Group and its mem­ber com­pa­nies will fully sup­port Mr Ma­tona in his en­deav­ours to re­store South Africa’s en­ergy se­cu­rity, and will work closely with him to fo­cus on a num­ber of pri­or­i­ties to achieve this,” he said.

Trade union Sol­i­dar­ity said that al­though it in­tended to sup­port Ma­tona, the ap­point­ment of a for­mer direc­tor-gen­eral pointed to­wards an “at­ti­tude”, on the state’s part, of treat­ing Eskom like a gov­ern­ment depart­ment.

Deon Reyneke, its en­ergy in­dus­try head, said Eskom and the en­ergy sec­tor as a whole needed both short- and long-term solutions, adding that the util­ity needed to in­clude in­de­pen­dent power pro­duc­ers in its long-term strat­egy.

Tshediso Ma­tona

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