President Cyril Ramaphosa delivers his Sona reply in the National Assembly. Picture: GCIS

PARLIAMENT – President Cyril Ramaphosa said a special cabinet task team has been established to deal with the Eskom crisis and provide him with reports daily on the state of the power grid and "what actions need to be taken to ensure energy supply".

Responding to the debate on the State of the nation address, which saw opposition parties heavily criticise Ramaphosa and the ANC-led government for allowing the crisis to unfold over the past few years, the president said there was no "silver bullet" to solve the power utility's massive problems.

"For those who have doubted the extent of these challenges, this week's load shedding has provided a hugely damaging reality check," he said.

The cabinet task team would be led by deputy president David Mabuza and will include Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, Transport Minister Blade Nzimande, Police Minister Bheki Cele and State Security Minister Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba.

Ramaphosa said while his announcement that Eskom will be split into three entities grabbed the headlines, what was more urgent was an effective and competent power plant maintenance plan which was properly funded and led by skilled engineers, saying it "is the one thing that stands between reliable electricity supply and darkness".

On the unbundling of Eskom, the president reassured unions they would be consulted and ruled out any privatisation. The three entities that the utility would be split into would be "100 percent state-owned", the president said, adding the unbundling was necessary to ensure Eskom's long-term sustainability.

"Restructuring will reduce the risk of a massive Eskom that at times has, in its current form, been termed too big to fail, placing the government in a position where all our eggs are in one basket," he said.

"Now the breakdown of six units immediately takes out 4 000 megawatts and has an overarching impact not only on the economy of our country, but the lives of ordinary South Africans and his happens because we have all our eggs in one basket."

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Eskom board have been tasked with the "building up of an adequate electricity security margin" that will be able to meet power demands, the president said.

The president will be meeting with unions in the next few days following criticism of the unbundling plans, and fears of job losses.

African News Agency (ANA)