South Africa is on the verge of filling a crucial leadership gap at state-owned oil and gas giant PetroSA, as Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe announces plans to appoint a new chief executive officer. The announcement comes after more than a year of uncertainty regarding the company’s top leadership position.
Mantashe revealed in a telephone interview on Monday that the name of a potential CEO was submitted in November and awaits approval from the cabinet before formal appointment procedures can commence.
PetroSA, in a subsequent statement, confirmed the departure of Sandisiwe Ncemane, who had been serving as the acting CEO since October 2022. Ncemane has been “released” to her former employer, the Central Energy Fund, while Sesakho Magadla steps in as the interim replacement.
However, it’s worth noting that these acting appointments are temporary measures until an official appointment is made for the position of group chief executive officer, according to the company’s statement.
Reports suggest that Nkululeko Poya, the current Chairman of PetroSA, and Danny Stimela, an acting manager in the CEO’s office, are among the contenders for the coveted CEO role. Sources familiar with the decision-making process indicate a preference towards Poya by Minister Mantashe, although Stimela remains a viable candidate.
The leadership transition at PetroSA occurs against a backdrop of financial challenges and strategic decisions. In late 2023, the company stirred controversy by selecting a subsidiary of Russia’s Gazprom Group to assist in the revival of its gas-to-liquid fuel refinery in Mossel Bay, a town in the southern region of South Africa.
This decision, endorsed by South Africa’s cabinet, has raised concerns, particularly from the United States, which has imposed sanctions on the Russian state-owned firm. Four international banks have reportedly threatened to sever ties with PetroSA should the collaboration proceed, underscoring the geopolitical sensitivities surrounding the venture.
Given that the United States is South Africa’s second-largest trading partner, criticism from Washington regarding South Africa’s ties with Russia could have broader implications for the country’s economic relations.
Despite these challenges, PetroSA is expected to reach a final investment decision regarding the refinery project within the next two months. However, individuals familiar with the matter caution that no public announcement has been made yet, highlighting the confidentiality surrounding the ongoing deliberations.
As South Africa navigates through these critical decisions in its energy sector, the appointment of a new CEO for PetroSA signifies a pivotal moment in the company’s trajectory. The incoming leadership will be tasked with addressing financial woes, navigating geopolitical complexities, and steering PetroSA towards a sustainable and prosperous future.