The scramble to "keep the lights on" until the election is designed to mislead South Africans until it is convenient to expose the rot, the DA said. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency/ANA

Johannesburg - The scramble to "keep the lights on" until the May 8 general election is not sustainable, is dishonest, and designed to mislead South Africans until it is politically convenient to expose the real rot, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

This week’s revelation that Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tabled a report which detailed a R17 billion bailout for Eskom due to an emergency cash problem pointed to a power utility that was no longer viable and sustainable, DA spokeswoman Natasha Mazzone said in a statement.

Eskom and other state-owned enterprises (SOEs) had become a "black hole that the South African taxpayer needs to constantly fill", she said.

"This is not simply because these entities have been badly managed, but because they have been used as looting vehicles for the ANC and the politically connected for decades."

The DA had been reliably informed that Eskom was not using the Chinese Development Bank loan and the bailouts for maintenance of power plants, which was the original problem that led to this crisis. They were using the money to literally pay salaries and keep the lights on by burning through billions of rand worth of diesel until after the elections, Mazzone said.

This meant that South Africa would no doubt be plunged into darkness this winter once again, as the African National Congress had "misled" the public about the gravity of the problems at Eskom.

The reality was that Eskom could not keep South Africa’s lights on because the business model of the entity was fundamentally broken. The DA had long reached out to the ANC government with solid solutions that would see the entity broken up into sustainable and functioning enterprises.

"We have proposed a bill that would allow for the introduction of independent power producers that would cheapen the cost of electricity, bring about much needed competition, and ensure that South Africa is not being tanked by the black hole that Eskom has become. But these solutions were never adopted," she said.

To adopt them would be to accept that the past 25 years had seen old infrastructure age, remain unmaintained, and now gradually collapse because the public money meant to sustain the entity had been "systematically stolen".

"That is why the ANC government would much rather continue to punish the public by forcing us all to pay for the corruption and mismanagement which has taken place at Eskom. The scramble to keep the lights on until May 8 is not sustainable. It is dishonest and designed to mislead South Africans until it is politically convenient to expose the real rot.

"The only way to put an end to this is for South Africans to vote for change on May 8th. Only the DA has a plan to keep the lights on and turn around the mess at Eskom," Mazzone said.

African News Agency (ANA)