File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - Civil rights organisation AfriForum has demanded that the corrupt at state power utility Eskom be prosecuted and that former engineers immediately be brought back into the company.  

In a press statement released on Wednesday, AfriForum's strategic adviser for community affairs, Dr. Eugene Brink, said there was no time left for small talk and that the time for promises had expired. 

 “Pravin Gordhan, minister of public enterprises, today said in parliament that the culprits might expect to find themselves in orange overalls soon. That is not good enough, and we have been hearing that for a long time now. We want to know immediately who the culprits are, and they should be punished without fail. The problem is that no-one is made an example of, and the crisis therefore worsens," said Brink.

Brink's statements come after the country learned on Wednesday that Eskom was "technically insolvent" and would cease to exist in April this year without a bailout from government. Officials were briefing parliament's portfolio committee on public enterprises on the state of the power utility, which is in crisis mode at the moment as a result of power plant outages that have led to rotational load-shedding.  

“Gordhan, President Cyril Ramaphosa and the ANC should all acknowledge their culpability in this crisis. They also helped to govern the country in the last ten years in which Eskom was eroded. They are just as guilty and completely out of touch with the suffering of the communities, the business sector and ordinary citizens. They should stop acting as if the country’s energy problems have come as a shock,” said Brink.

Gordhan moreover promised to bring former engineers back from abroad to help address the crisis, said Brink. 

“It is no longer just an option, it should happen without delay. They were let go by Eskom simply because of the colour of their skins, and other countries now benefit from their expertise. Obsession with race comes at a high price, and the whole of South Africa is now busy paying [for] it. Eskom’s failure should serve as a case study for the whole country,” said Brink. 

Acting public enterprises director general Thuto Shomang told MPs on Wednesday morning that the current crisis followed years of mismanagement, corruption, and bad decision-making, among a host of other failures.

Shomang presented MPs with a diagnostic of the operational and financial crisis for the company. 

He said the cash generated at the utility was not covering operating and debt servicing costs while the headcount had increased from 32,000 to 48,000 between 2007 and 2018.

Shomang said on the operational side, an ageing generation fleet that had not been properly maintained, coupled with design flaws at the two newest coal-fired power stations - Medupe and Kusile - which were operating at below 50% capacity, had exacerbated the situation, leading to the outages and resultant power cuts. 

African News Agency (ANA)