President Cyril Ramaphosa briefs the media on the outcome of his meeting with the Eskom board. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa briefs the media on the outcome of his meeting with the Eskom board. Picture: Siyabulela Duda/GCIS

Government’s flip-flopping around Eskom crisis sends country into panic mode

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Johannesburg - The government’s flip-flopping around the crisis at Eskom has sent the country into panic mode and eyes are on President Cyril Ramaphosa after he blamed wet coal and sabotage without giving a clear plan on ending load shedding.

Questions have been raised about the real course of the country plummeting to Stage 6 after a former Eskom executive dismissed the assertion that wet coal and sabotage are behind the costly crisis.

Ramaphosa, who cut short his state visit to Egypt on Tuesday, has since ordered an investigation into what he on Wednesday described as “acts of sabotage at Eskom”, which this week resulted in blackouts and sent the economy into a tailspin.

“What has also come out as a great concern is that there has been a measure of sabotage which has led to the loss of, during this period, 2000 megawatts,” he said following a meeting with Eskom’s board and ministers at the power utility’s Megawatt Park headquarters in Sunninghill.

According to Ramaphosa, the alleged sabotage occurred when an instrument at Eskom’s internal system was disconnected leading to two of the boilers “tripping”. He added: “I’ve directed that the sabotage acts must be investigated and (Eskom) must immediately work with the SA Police Service and our intelligence services as well to find out exactly how anyone within Eskom could have disconnected the instrument that has led to the loss of 2 000 megawatts”.

Ramaphosa also ordered that security be increased with immediate effect to ensure the entire electricity system is under constant security surveillance. However, former Eskom acting chief executive officer Matshela Koko on Wednesday came out guns blazing, saying he “does not buy” the idea that the state-owned power utility’s implementation of Stage 6 load shedding was caused by wet coal as indicated earlier by management. “Wet coal is an excuse,” Koko said. 

■ He added that it was “very” clear that the leadership of Eskom, at the board and executive levels was “very” inexperienced. “There is a big disconnect between engineers and the leadership,” he said.

■ He insisted that South Africans were suffering long hours of darkness because of the lack of maintenance at the country’s power stations.

■ Earlier, he told SABC News that under his predecessor Brian Molefe’s helm, Eskom power stations ran smoothly, adding that when Molefe took over as CEO in 2015 he stopped the load shedding that had started in 2007. 

“We did not have excuses, Brian Molefe came in and he never complained about the lack of maintenance, he never blamed the past leadership.” Political parties and social media users have been unrelenting in their criticism of Ramaphosa’s handling of the crisis at Eskom.

EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu said on Twitter: “We were going to be surprised and shocked if the ‘president’ was not surprised and shocked. That’s him for you. He’s shocked about everything and now we want the name of the saboteur, the address we will find.”

He also highlighted that his party had previously maintained that “Eskom’s leadership of Jabu Mabuza and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan are deliberately sabotaging Eskom so as to build a case for privatisation of electricity generation. We were correct!”

PAC leader Themba Godi also took a swipe at some ministers, saying: “The beneficiaries of apartheid, the DA , now say Mantashe must be held accountable for energy crisis. “But who is messing up Eskom? Pravin of course.”

Sharne Zoe on Twitter said: “Early this morning Thuli Madonsela conveyed a conspiracy of sabotage. A few hours later, after his impromptu meeting at Eskom, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirms sabotage at Eskom. Coincidence?” Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter said everyone was equally concerned and that management was doing all it can to fix the challenges facing the power utility. 

* Additional reporting by Bongani Hans

Political Bureau

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