By the end of 1987, conditions had improved enough that Mr. Matya, for one, felt comfortable returning to Eskom. His post this time was chief of logistics at a distribution unit in Bloemfontein, a conservative Afrikaaner stronghold. “I took the job with the clear intent of being part of the transformation process,” he says. Then, after the ANC assumed power in 1994, Mr. Matya became the first black manager at Duvha, where he’d once been forbidden to use the toilets. He is currently Eskom’s managing director for generation and sits on the executive management committee.
Eskom’s willingness to integrate its work force as far back as the 1970s paid an enormous dividend in building the company’s capacity for leadership. “I joined the company in 1993, when the country’s transformational initiatives were in their infancy,” says Thulani S. Gcabashe, Eskom’s current chief executive officer, who started as an electrification manager in Natal. “Eskom saw its chance to get an early start — make our own mistakes and learn from them. So by the time the rest of society was ready to start putting out guidelines, we were the ones being consulted. If you look at the Employment Equity Act of 1998, it is very much based on what we started doing in the 1990s.” Even today, Eskom is one of the few South African corporations to consistently meet or exceed the requirements of the first post-apartheid government’s 1995 Reconstruction and Development Program, which included targets for promoting affirmative action and bringing water and electricity to poor communities. In 1993, 60 percent of all Eskom employees were black, and 5 percent of the managerial, supervisory, and professional staff were black. By the time Dr. Maree retired in 1997, more than 50 percent of the managerial and technical professionals were black. The next chairman and CEO, respectively, Mr. Khoza and Mr. Gcabashe, aimed by 2000 to fill half of all supervisory personnel and top managerial positions with nonwhites. “In the end, we achieved this goal a year ahead,” says Mr. Gcabashe. “We also said 1.75 million homes will have electricity by the year 2000, and we beat that goal a year ahead, too.” Eskom’s nonwhite supervisory and managerial goal for 2010 is 65 percent.
Eskom’s top executive team is made up almost exclusively of blacks, as is its board of directors. (Dr. Lennon is the only white member of the executive management committee.) Eskom appointed its first black chairman of the board, Mr. Khoza, in 1997. (He stepped down in 2005. His successor is Valli Moosa, a former minister of the environment.) Mr. Gcabashe is Eskom’s first black CEO. (He is scheduled to retire at the end of 2007.) By contrast, as of March 2006, Sasol — South Africa’s state-owned synthetic fuel and chemical company — had appointed only its second black executive director in 12 years.
As the South African government formalizes and expands its regulations on training and promoting nonwhite managers, companies scramble to formulate their compliance strategies. But Eskom has already met the government requirements, and is now concentrating on recruitment and development strategies, to fill its pipeline of managerial and technical talent in a market where such talent is in short supply.
“We start to recruit young men and women in high school and support them through university. Then we bring them into the business in a two-year training program,” says Mr. Gcabashe. The Eskom Foundation, a social investment nonprofit founded by Mr. Khoza and Allen J. Morgan, a former CEO who succeeded Dr. McRae, funds health, education, and small business programs for disadvantaged South Africans. The foundation provides scholarships to promising students and helps schools develop teaching resources in math and science. Eskom is also promoting a first generation of women in management. In 1993, about 8 percent of Eskom professionals were women. Now the number is 30 percent, which includes the only female power station manager in the world, and a senior transmission manager responsible for ensuring the stability of the national grid.