Durban - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has blamed state capture, insufficient investment in repairs, delays in the provision of power by new power plants and shoddy maintenance work for the rolling blackouts of recent weeks.
Gordhan addressed the media at Megawatt Park in Johannesburg yesterday on the reasons for Eskom’s power outages, which have affected businesses and households countrywide, saying there would be “consequences” for shoddy work and corruption.
He said President Cyril Ramaphosa would soon announce the establishment of a Cabinet task team to work on a five-year plan for Eskom and that there was a “fight-back” to clean up the utility’s governance, finance and operational performance.
Gordhan said all Eskom managers had been ordered to cancel their leave to focus on eliminating load shedding.
However, he said there should be no load shedding between December 15 and January 15, when demand was usually low.
He apologised for Eskom “not communicating adequately” with the public on load shedding, saying the utility aimed to eliminate Stage 2 load shedding in the next week.
“We are going to try our best to get to a point where load shedding disappears before Christmas. Some newspapers have been talking about a dark Christmas. We want to reassure the public we are working very hard to ensure that doesn’t happen and hope by next week to give a more concrete assurance in that regard,” he said.
“We want to assure business that by the time you get back to work in January, we will have a much more stable situation and the economic impact of the instability of electricity supply will be something that has been minimised or eliminated completely.”
Gordhan said Eskom would have a skills “reshuffle” at management level and the board would also call in independent experts to advise it regarding its turnaround plans.
Gordhan said although Eskom had 47000MW of installed capacity, it could only supply about 27000MW as a result of unplanned outages because of maintenance stoppages.
He said current load shedding was partly caused by insufficient capital expenditure on major plant parts and shoddy repairs to infrastructure. He said new power plants Medupi and Kusile were also not yet able to provide the additional 7800KW planned safety-margin capacity.
Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Musa Makhunga said that according to eThekwini’s electricity department, national key points and some of Durban’s major manufacturers had been exempt from load shedding. “But the chamber has encouraged all members and the business community to ensure that they plan effectively to mitigate the effects and maintain productivity within their organisations,” Makhunga said.
According to the recent gross domestic product (GDP) results from Stats SA, South Africa had just exited a technical recession, Makhunga said.
“However, prolonged periods of load shedding will not be good for the economy. It will have adverse effects across industries. Durban and South Africa cannot afford sustained load shedding as it has a severe economic impact. With the festive period around the corner, there is a significant risk to the tourism and hospitality sectors and we hope Eskom can resolve the issues or provide greater certainty before the start of the holidays so that businesses can plan accordingly.”
Efficient Group economist Dawie Roodt said Gordhan’s remarks were “mostly just grandstanding that sounded good”. He said the problem was that there were too many people working for Eskom who were overpaid but were unproductive and had received a 7.5% wage increase on Gordhan’s instruction to the board.
“Politicians are making promises and saying things that are good for the economy but the real reason is too many people are being paid for not really working and they are not prepared to make the break with Cosatu and say ‘you cannot keep the country hostage’,” Roodt said.