ESKOM hit South Africans with stage 3 load shedding yesterday, forcing some students to study in the dark and some businesses to shut down.

Cape Town – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Eskom board will bring in engineers to do an independent audit of the country’s power stations to get to the bottom of failures which have seen the introduction of countrywide load shedding.

Speaking during a joint sitting of Parliament during the debate on the State of the Nation Address (Sona), Gordhan conceded the failures of South Africa’s two newest coal-fired power stations which were built to rescue the country from an energy supply shortage.

“Fundamentally, the first point we need to tell the public... is that Medupi and Kusile were badly designed and badly constructed and are not performing at optimum levels,” Gordhan told MPs.

“I had various interactions today (Tuesday) and we’re beginning to see where the problems are... but we’ve also taken new initiatives where the board and myself have agreed we’re going to bring in external power station engineers, have an independent audit of exactly what is going on so that we put Eskom back on track.”

Gordhan also lashed out at critics of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that Eskom will be unbundled, denying that this meant the power utility would be privatised.

Eskom implemented stage 3 rotational load shedding from 8am and was set to continue until late last night, saying load shedding was conducted as a measure of last resort to protect the power system from a total collapse or blackout.

Gordhan had said the unbundling of Eskom has to happen urgently.

Yesterday, opposition parties came out guns blazing accusing the ANC and Ramaphosa of failing to rein in corrupt politicians and fix Eskom.

In the debate on Sona in Parliament, opposition MPs did not mince their words, saying Ramaphosa has failed to crack down on ministers implicated in wrongdoing.

They also warned that Eskom was teetering on the brink of collapse with load shedding.

However, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu and another MP Jomo Nyambi defended the track record of the party in government.

Mthembu said while they were concerned about the problems facing Eskom they believe the government would be able to act.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said: “What is becoming clear is that this has got all the signs of sabotage.

“It’s either the management does not know what it’s talking about or it has been lying to the country because we have been given a hunky-dory story not so long ago, we have been assured that there won’t be problems...

“But certainly yesterday (Monday), the country was put in a danger-zone and that on its own was an act of calling for disinvestment in the country.”

Meanwhile, provincial health facilities have put plans in place should clinics and hospitals be affected by load shedding.

Western Cape Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever said all hospitals are equipped with functional generators, but some community day centres did not have any.

“This includes ensuring facilities have sufficient diesel available, as well as having the machines regularly maintained.

“The generators are programmed to start up automatically when there is a power failure.

“This immediate start-up ensures that there is no negative effect on life-supporting equipment during the power outages.”

Cape Times