Lynne Brown says Eskom’s woes began years prior to her appointment
FORMER public enterprises minister Lynne Brown says when she took up her position in 2014, six years had already passed in which the power utility, Eskom, had not been able to keep the lights on.
“The way Eskom kept the lights on was to use open gas turbines,” Brown said, when testifying before the Zondo Commission on Friday.
Brown said Eskom was no longer a going concern and there was a range of reasons for that.
“It was spending a lot of money to keep the lights on by purchasing diesel. It therefore did not do maintenance.
“All of Eskom plants were 25 years and older and some of the plants’ lives were extended by more than 10 years,” she said.
Brown told the commission Eskom had a huge debt, which at the time was R180 billion.
“By the time I was reshuffled out of the Cabinet, Eskom debt was at about R260bn. I think the debt is at R450bn.”
Brown said she had been informed by the then Eskom board chairperson and chief executive in December 2014 they would not have money to pay more 42 000 workers.
“Eskom was in real dire straits, including the fact when I got there the then board was in a very highly conflicted state. There was a tender for Koeberg that happened three years before my time but came to an end in my time,” she said.
Brown told the commission how she was roasted in the media over the contract that was concluded during her time, after she was asked to look at the process of that tender.
“The view was I was the person who changed the name of whoever got the tender, but the court ruled on the matter many months later and the matter was largely clarified.”
She said Eskom was crucial to the economy and had done a good job to provide access to more than 90% of the public when she left office.
“The point I make is Eskom was in dire financial straits in terms of load shedding. I was called a minister of load shedding, even though I had other portfolios in my portfolio.
“It is nothing compared to what is happening at the moment. Nobody is blamed at the moment for this load shedding,” she said.
“I want you to reflect on that even if it is not now. The public sentiment against the company was very high. That was just when I came to the company,” Brown added.
She told the commission things were so bad at Eskom that a war room was created in December 2014 and was chaired by then deputy president, who is now president Cyril Ramaphosa.
“I try to show the amount of absolute chaos within the company and the pressure we were under in that company,” Brown said.
Advocate Pule Seleka, who is leading the evidence, said he had a version from one of executives on the matter.
“I will put that version to her,” Seleka said.