While Eskom and the energy challenges are the buzzwords for everyone in the country, Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI, profiles one of the utility’s group executives who don’t make the headlines and yet their unparalleled commitment to building the corporation into a well-oiled machinery remains undeterred and defocused, and that’s none other than ELSIE PULE, Group Executive: Human Resources…

Born in Pretoria, a middle child of 6 siblings and bred in Winterveldt, Elsie Pule went to Rethusitswe Primary School in a village called Kromkuil in Winterveldt. She furthered her schooling at Molebatsi High School at a neighbouring village called Ga-Motle and acquired her matric at Central High School in Soshanguve in 1984.

Elsie obtained her first degree in Social Work in 1989 at the University of the Limpopo (then University of the North). She subsequently furthered her formal education part-timely and obtained a BA (Hons) in Psychology at the University of Pretoria in 1995. Given the challenges with regards to access to education for many black people then, she was compelled to study this post-graduate degree through the Afrikaans medium, a challenge she took in her strides and did very well scoring several distinctions. This language demographic was just another barrier for her to conquer having defied both gender challenges as a girl child to pursue education on top of growing up in the rural hinterland of Winterveldt. After breaking these barriers, her determination was to go beyond the physical national borders to receive an international qualification. She then pursued an MSc in Business Engineering at the Warwick University (UK) in 2004.

Elsie started her career as a Social Worker with the Public Sector, the then Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA) and later the National Council for the Aged. This was the epitome of her career contributing to the empowerment of the most vulnerable sections of our society through communication and advocacy to equip them to triumph against the odds stacked against them.

In 1994 when the country was celebrating the birth of democracy, Elsie was on maternity leave looking forward to celebrating the birth of her baby. Typical of the challenges then faced by women, another hurdle was erected right in front of her face: she was retrenched from her job. Undeterred, she explored her options. An opportunity found her. The head of the Psychology Department at the University of Pretoria where she had just completed her honours degree heard about her plight and offered her a Junior Psychology Lecturership at the University of Pretoria as the institution was beginning to deliver Psychology lectures through the English medium for the first time in 1995.

1995 was one of the most blessed years for Elsie. She also moved into the corporate sector by joining Eskom where she occupied  various roles that spanned the entire HR value chain. The human capital section was critical in the nascent process of transforming the state owned companies as part of the overall national project of transforming the country from apartheid into democracy. She worked in the Generation division of Eskom for more than a decade. Her confidence in entering the energy sector – a sector thst hitherto had black people as mere labourers – was backed by academic excellence. Her master’s degree topic was around the management of incidents at Power Stations that formed the basis of a process called Occurrence Management during those years and a function she performed as an organisational development professional. This programme examined the role of human behaviour in plant incidents.

In 2003, she developed a Business Case for the Eskom Shared Services centre which was approved by the Board and launched in 2004 at an opening ceremony graced by the then Minister of Minerals and Energy, Mr Alec Erwin. This was to serve as a platform for the Shared Services unit that still stands today.

In 2007, she spearheaded several exciting HR programmes like capability development through skills training within the context of Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa (ASGI-SA). This skills programme boasted the technical pipeline of skills at Eskom and women empowerment programmes. ASGI-SA sow the country’s Gross Domestic Product growing by 4.9% in 2006; resulting in a small budget surplus, the gap between budget and expenditure was narrowing, and the percentage of capital projects behind schedule falling to 4% in 2006.

In 2008 Elsie was deployed back to Generation section where she partnered with the Group Executive: Generation as Eskom was beginning to battle the initial load shedding challenges experienced in 2008. During that period, the Generation leadership focussed on empowering managers, boosting morale, and incentivising high performance leading to guardians galvanising all energies to keep the lights on.

In March 2010, Elsie was made an offer to become the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at the South African Revenue Services (SARS). This is where she got involved with the World Customs training initiatives, set up the SARS Learning Academy and many exciting initiatives geared towards improving employee holistic wellness particularly among those who served the country at remote sites like border posts. It was during her tenure at SARS that she was awarded the HR Leader of the Year by Africa India Summit in 2011 and later a Runner Up for the IPM HR Director of the Year. 

Elsie was headhunted back to Eskom as the Senior General Manager in December 2012. She acted as the Group Executive Human Resources from November 2014 until she was officially appointed as the Group Executive: Human Resources in June 2016 – the role she currently occupies. Some of the highlights in her career include:

  • Leading HR teams of over 1400 employees across South Africa
  • Served at various organisations as a board member including the Eskom Pension and Provident Fund (EPPF), the Institute of People Management (IPM) and the Eskom Finance Company (EFC)
  • Spearheaded the Eskom Women Advancement Programme 
  • Led a compilation of the book, “Eskom Women’s Transformation Journey – A Nickel of Democracy”
  • Awarded the Standard Bank Top Female in the Public Sector (2018)
  • Presented numerous thought leadership papers internationally on Women Empowerment and Gender Equity
  • Her latest achievement is her appointment to the Energy Sector Gender Ministerial Advisory Council of South Africa
  • In 2022, she was awarded the Standard Bank Runner UP for the “Top Woman in Transformation”.