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Eskom Appoints Dames as CEO to Tackle Power Crisis

South Africa appointed Brian Dames to head state utility Eskom Holdings Ltd., filling an eight-month leadership void as the company struggles to resolve a funding crisis that threatens to cut power to homes and mines.

“We welcome the appointment of Dames and look forward to the stability that his appointment brings to Eskom,” Chairman Mpho Makwana said in a statement e-mailed today from Johannesburg. “This now completes the leadership team that will take Eskom further into a new era.”

Makwana, who has been interim chairman of Eskom since November, was confirmed in the post earlier today by the South African Public Enterprises Department.

Eskom has been leaderless since former CEO Jacob Maroga and Chairman Bobby Godsell left last year after record losses and a battle over management of Africa’s biggest power producer. The company, which has been unable to also fill the finance chief post last year, has failed to raise all of the 460 billion rand ($61 billion) needed to expand and ensure against a repeat of rolling blackouts in 2008.

Operations of BHP Billiton Ltd., Anglo American Plc and ArcelorMittal were hit when the network run by Eskom, supplier of 95 percent of South Africa’s power, almost collapsed in 2008.

South Africa appointed Dames even as Maroga is seeking reinstatement, or compensation of 85.7 million rand. He sued Eskom on Jan. 14, saying the company fired him in October by wrongly accusing him of “poor performance.” Eskom said Feb. 22 his removal was by agreement. Godsell resigned in November, saying the state failed to support his plan to oust Maroga.

Dames, 44, joined Eskom as a graduate-in-training in 1987, according to the company. His first job at the utility was as a physicist and he later managed Duvha power plant. He was Eskom’s general manager of nuclear operations before being appointed as head of the utility’s power-generation unit.

Eskom’s funding crisis worsened after the regulator awarded a smaller price increase than the 35 percent the company had requested for each of the next three years. The utility is instead allowed to raise average tariffs in South Africa by 25 percent this year and 26 percent for both of the next two years.

Eskom, which also supplies power to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, is seeking to double capacity to about 80,000 megawatts by 2025 to prevent future power outages.

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