Eskom ‘becoming a political football in succession debate’
Johannesburg - As the Presidency remains mum on President Cyril Ramphosa’s next move on challenges facing Eskom, a political expert believes rife factionalism in the ruling party is crippling the organisation.
“We are seeing how divisions in the ANC are infiltrating key institutions such as Eskom. There is no doubt that Eskom will now be used as a political football in the succession debate,” political analyst Ralph Mathekga said on Sunday. His comments follow conflicting sentiments shared by Ramaphosa and his deputy David Mabuza on matters concerning the power utility.
Last week Mabuza stated that he was of the view that the president had been misled by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and the Eskom board on load shedding. This after Ramaphosa reassured the country late last year that there would be no planned power outages.
However, over the past few weeks, the country has experienced several power cuts. In a statement issued yesterday, Eskom indicated that there would be no load shedding and that operations had resumed at its Koeberg Unit 1 power station.
“Our teams continue to work around the clock to return units from planned and unplanned outages. The additional capacity brought online, as well as lower demand over the weekend, has allowed us to replenish our pumped storage schemes and we continue to work to improve the levels of diesel at our open cycle.
“Owing to inadequate maintenance over a number of years, the system remains reliant on gas turbine generators,” it said.
Meanwhile, despite the appointment of chief executive Andre de Ruyter to steer the ship in the right direction, the utility’s board chairman Jabu Mabuza quit on Friday, throwing the organisation into further disarray.
On Sunday, City Press reported that Mabuza, who was appointed in January 2018, had faced mounting pressure following David Mabuza’s remarks. Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Khusela Diko, did not respond to calls and questions yesterday on whether the president would meet Gordhan this week to iron out matters at Eskom.
Gordhan’s office was also silent on Eskom amid calls by the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union for Gordhan to step down, with DA MP Galieb Chaclia saying Mabuza’s resignation was an opportunity for the government to appoint an independent chairman of the board of directors and a reconstituted board.
But Mathekga said that going into the new week, Ramaphosa and Mabuza had to meet to discuss their recent remarks as neither had taken the public into their confidence about what was really going on at Eskom.
“The deputy president and president differ in their statements. At this point, we are all asking who should we believe? “You can’t have that. They (Ramaphosa and Mabuza) should take the podium together and speak in accord,” he said.
Commenting on the current composition of the board, Mathekga said that despite their technical abilities, the board members currently did not have any political support and should all vacate their seats. “When a chair of the board resigns, there is practically no board. All members have to go,” he said. It was still unclear on Sunday night what action Eskom would take following Mabuza’s resignation.