Cape Town - DA leader Helen Zille has called on Eskom executives to repay the R31 million in bonuses they received over the past two years as it was the “only ethical thing to do”.
A public petition backing this call gained 6 794 signatures in just two days, following last Thursday’s load shedding which hit businesses and homes countrywide. Eskom blamed wet coal, but it also emerged that units at two power stations went out of commission.
Zille said: “We believe these bonuses (R17m in 2013 and R14m in 2012) are entirely inappropriate and undeserved… Bonuses are for exceptional target-meeting and performance. Load shedding is proof (performance is not happening).”
Zille put last week’s load shedding squarely under the election spotlight, recalling that the rolling blackouts in 2006 “gave us Cape Town on a platter”.
That year, a dropped bolt in one of the units at the Koeberg nuclear power station, described by then-public enterprise minister Alec Erwin as an act of “sabotage”, triggered massive black-outs in the Cape.
In 2008, load shedding hit countrywide when the national grid was disrupted for weeks, causing hardship and stifling business output.
On Monday, the DA said that aside from its call on Eskom’s top managers to refund their bonuses, the party would also ask the Public Service Commission to investigate how such bonuses were awarded.
If it was not in the commission’s remit, then the DA would not hesitate to approach the public protector.
A request for a parliamentary debate on Eskom’s track record and load shedding has already been submitted by the DA, but it’s unlikely to happen as there are just three days to go before the national legislature closes to allow MPs to go electioneering.
The National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) will also be approached to investigate the causes of the current electricity supply shortage.
DA MP Natasha Michael said she would again ask Eskom to provide documents related to the delayed finalisation of two new coal-fired power stations – Medupi and Kusile. To date, Eskom had requested two extensions for the applications for information under Promotion of Access to Information Act, but had still not delivered the information.
“The Medupi power station project has been one of the most significant failures of Jacob Zuma’s administration,” said Michael.
“The Medupi project was initially planned to be operational by the end of 2012. The deadline shifted three times with the latest extension scheduling completion for mid to late 2014,” Michael said, adding costs had also ballooned and were estimated to reach R150 billion.
In March last year, it emerged that welding faults had caused delays, and this was exacerbated by further technical faults.
For the DA, questions also remained over the deal the governing ANC investment arm Chancellor House did with Hitachi Power Africa, which won the contract to supply turbines at Medupi.
The ANC has denied it benefited when Chancellor House recently sold off its stake for an undisclosed amount, although speculation widely holds it could have netted some R50m.