Picture: Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters.
PARLIAMENT - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday slammed opposition politicians for using a National Assembly debate on the Eskom crisis to score points with voters ahead of the May 8 elections.

Closing the debate, Gordhan said he expected alternative solutions to the crisis, which has seen load shedding occurring throughout the country again as a result of power stations breaking down due to poor maintenance.

The minister again conceded some of the plans to turn the state-owned utility around had failed, but said government was actively working with the Eskom board to ensure the lights stayed on.

"That generation plan unfortunately didn't meet with 100% success that we expected so we concede that to the country that Eskom got that wrong, particularly in relation to the seven units that had difficulty a few days ago."

"However, for this week it would appear Eskom has the availability of a combination of the coal powered units, water pump storage mechanisms and the diesel power that is available...that combination is working ideally at the moment and as a result we've had no load shedding for the last few days and hopefully that will continue into the future if we have no surprises."

The minister said in the coming months the Eskom board would be bolstered by appointing more engineers, while engagements with engineering councils and labour would continue to find ways to ensure the country was not plunged into darkness again.

Earlier, DA MP Natasha Mazzone told MPs Eskom, along with the governing ANC, was holding South Africans "hostage".

"We, as South Africa, have a metaphorical knife to our throat and we are being forced to pay a never-ending ransom to Eskom, or else the throat will be slit and the result will be a full blackout and the death of South Africa as we know it," said Mazzone.

The debate follows on the back of admissions from government that faulty designs of its new power stations resulted in South Africa not having an adequate buffer should breakdowns and planned maintenance at other electricity plants occur.

"We are teetering on the very edge. We should be terrified at what exactly could happen if this crisis worsens," said Mazzone. 

She said government had failed to avert the crisis and keep the lights on despite several turnaround plans being put in place and various task teams created. 

"I have watched, year after year, Eskom board after Eskom board, rolling blackout after rolling blackout, minister after minister, Eskom price increase after price increase…it just gets worse."

When Economic Freedom Fighters MP Nazier Paulsen took to the podium, he alluded to a conspiracy to privatise Eskom, saying load shedding was being used to "frustrate the masses" and present private investors as "saviours".  "You will then have a situation where the fox will guard the henhouse."

African News Agency (ANA)