Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan announced emergency steps to prevent further stage 2 load-shedding. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency/ANA

Cape Town - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday announced emergency steps to prevent further stage 2 load-shedding and confirmed longer-term plans to separate the generation and distribution capacities of the power utility.

Gordhan told a media briefing at Eskom's Megawatt Park headquarters that public irritation with sustained load shedding was understandable, and the utility had cancelled senior managers' leave in a bid to keep the lights on over the festive season.

He confirmed that Medupi and Kusile power plants were not functioning optimally and said the blame should go to contractors. Chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer suggested that the company would seek answers from Hitachi, and confirmed that the cause for planned outages this week was not the company's coal shortage but the unavailability of generation plants.

Gordhan and Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza confirmed that the company and shareholder had placed plans before rating agencies to split Eskom's generation and distribution functions as part of a future strategy to stabilise the loss-making utility.

Gordhan was emphatic that there would no privatisation, saying that was a false narrative advanced by those who wanted to undermine efforts to arrest corruption and state capture.

"We all know that recapturing institutions that were under state capture is not the favourite thing that people want, some people because we have cut the supply chain," he said.

He said these were the people who were suggesting that privatisation was in the pipeline to swing public sentiment in the run-up to next year's elections.

Neither Gordhan nor Mabuza would respond to questions on how Eskom's debt of R419 billion would be spread once its different functions were split up. They said this required more planning.

African News Agency (ANA)