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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan under the spotlight over increasing Eskom blackouts

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. I REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. I REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Published Nov 10, 2021


DURBAN - ROLLING blackouts and load shedding have cast the spotlight on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s capacity to get Eskom and the country’s electricity grid back to normal.

State-owned enterprise (SOE) Eskom has been under Gordhan’s management since February 2018. The power utility on Tuesday announced load shedding Stage 3 from Wednesday at 5am. Earlier in the week it had announced Stage 4 load shedding until Friday to ration the remaining emergency generation reserves, which have been utilised extensively.

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According to Eskom’s statement, the additional seven units which were expected to return to service on Monday, had not kicked in, while a generation unit at the Arnot Power Station also tripped, contributing to the shortages.

At a media briefing last week, Gordhan said he had taken a hard line against Eskom’s poor electricity supply, instructing the board to beef up the power utility with the requisite expertise to deal with generation capacity. Gordhan said skills were needed at Eskom, and had to be acquired swiftly to help stop the deterioration in generation units.

Gordhan said the necessary exemptions will be made by the National Treasury for Eskom to find the right expertise to assist.

“It is clear within Eskom itself that further expertise is required. The board has been instructed to take whatever measures necessary in order to bring in necessary expertise to back up the existing management teams at all levels in Eskom. We must ensure the proper level of professionalism and of engineering rigour within the Eskom environment,” Gordhan said.

In July 2019, Gordhan made similar remarks when he said the flight of management and technical skills had negatively impacted on SOEs. It had also impacted staff morale and work culture, especially of those who did not want to participate in corrupt activities.

Public Enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu had not responded to an emailed media query by the deadline for publication.

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On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said energy investments would help as new electricity generation capacity comes online. The 25 preferred bidders in the fifth round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme are together expected to invest around R50 billion into the economy.

Andre de Ruyter was appointed as Eskom chief executive in January 2020.

Acting director-general of Public Enterprises Kgathatso Tlhakudi said a Reformed Electricity Supply Industry, implemented during October 2019, was divisionalised into three operating activities – generation, transmission and distribution.

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He said each division would have its own board and management structure. The DPE Strategic plan for 2020/21 -2024/25 indicated that Eskom needed about eighteen months to achieve the reform and stabilise the grid.

Former Eskom interim group chief executive Matshela Koko said Gordhan remains as minister because he continuously blamed state capture to deflect attention from himself.

“In 2018, I was asked to resign by the government because Eskom was regarded as the biggest risk. Then, Eskom was not in this condition. It is now by far the worst. Since taking office, Gordhan has not turned around any SOE. All of them have failed. His excuses can no longer be accepted. Gordhan had enough time to fix it. He needs to inspire confidence. He needs to show us what progress he’s made,” Koko said.

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In August 2020, Gordhan’s niece, Hasha Tlhotlhalemaje, was appointed a trustee of the Eskom pension and provident fund. She still occupies the post.

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