'Every citizen a hostage of Eskom' - Opposition as National Assembly approves bailout
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PARLIAMENT - The National Assembly on Tuesday approved a special appropriations bill granting Eskom an additional R59 billion bailout, with the ANC prevailing against dissent from opposition members of Parliament (MPs) who want greater intervention to turn around the struggling power utility
The bill was passed by 200 votes to 105.
ANC MPs said the bill was essential to keep the lights, and recalled that many of them grew up in a "permanent state of load-shedding" due to the inequalities perpetuated by the apartheid regime, that prioritised providing services to the country's white minority.
But African Christian Democratic Party MP Steve Swart said it seemed that the government lacked the political will to intervene decisively to make Eskom a viable operation.
He noted that MPs who fought to expose the corruption that was prevalent in the company during the so-called state capture era had been sidelined.
Among them was Zukiswa Rantho, who headed the special Parliamentary inquiry into Eskom's affairs, and did not secure a new seat in Parliament after this year's national elections, Swart said.
"Sadly, very little action taken against the criminals. Those implicated have been re-elected and occupy seats in this very house. This is the reason of my outrage," he said.
"No wonder there is outrage among the members of the public."
Swart said Parliament should appoint a special ad hoc committee to oversee Eskom and ensure that it complies with the conditions attached to its latest bailout.
United Democratic Movement MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa said it was baffling that MPs were asked to be "throwing money at the problem" when it had emerged that Eskom had overpaid suppliers to the tune of R4 billion.
Eskom has almost R500 billion in debt.
The DA's Ashor Sarupen said at times it seemed that Eskom was burning actual money instead of coal.
"Eskom has a gun to the head of this government, ready to pull the trigger on a sovereign debt crisis at any time if National Treasury does not do its bidding," he said in the debate on the bill.
"Every citizen is a hostage of Eskom. We are a hostage to rolling blackouts, which causes massive economic losses. We are a hostage to their bailout demands. We are hostage to their endless management crises."
Sarupen said the only solution was to diversify away from coal-based energy and to privatise the company's generating capacity.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni tabled the bill in July to help Eskom meet its financial obligations for this year and the next. It extends an extra R26bn to Eskom in 2019/20 and R33bn in 2020/2021. It adds to R69bn allocated to Eskom in the national budget in February.