State capture left the already ageing Eskom power plants without experienced and capable managers, said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - Among the worst consequences of state capture were those suffered by Eskom power stations, leaving the already ageing power plants without experienced and capable managers. 

This point was argued by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan during a technical briefing on Wednesday to update media on the utility's electricity supply issues.

There is probably nowhere where the shortcomings of Eskom have been exposed more starkly than at power station level during the most recent bout of recent load-shedding. It brought to light a high level of plant failures, multiple boiler tube leaks, depleted diesel levels, and low water levels at its hydro stations. 

Gordhan said that the large scale corruption and looting at Eskom followed a now familiar pattern of state capture where a minister would be removed, followed by a change of the board members and the chief executive of the state-owned company.

"Corruption impacted on the treasury functions within Eskom, it impacted on good skills being marginalised and good managers being marginalised or even being kicked out of the organisation, .... and other good professionals, black and white, have left the organisation because they said they don't want to work in this kind of environment," Gordhan said.

"The coal supply chain was contaminated, Optimum/Tegeta is one illustration of that, but there are a lot of other issues where you should all ask questions about how there is a coal-supply, including the transport of coal work, and how do you get rock and sand delivered sometimes to some of our power stations."

Gordhan also reiterated that significant malfeasance has been discovered at Eskom with at least 3 000 employees suspected to have created business entities that went on to trade with the power utility. He said at least 1,000 of those have been discovered and deal with. 

The minister also repeated that former Eskom chief executive, Brian Molefe, and his colleagues of that time have a lot to answer for to South Africa

Anton Eberhard, chairman of an Eskom task team appointed by President Cyril Ramaphosa, said that Eskom would turn the corner and be financially sustainable if it started generated enough revenue to fund its activities, cut down on debt and overhead costs, and ensuring security of power supply.

But Eberhard said this would not happen if Eskom did not have the right personnel at the coalface of electricity generation, at the power plant level.

"One of the issues which really struck us as the president's task team when we went into Eskom was that probably the cold issue, the cold difficulty challenging Eskom, is the issue of skills and capabilities. We have highlighted this issue of leadership and people," Eberhard said.

"We should not underestimate the impacts of state capture at SOEs in hollowing skills, extraordinary disruption and undermining of governance systems at board level and at management level. This is what we have seen in our investigation, just how deep this runs through the organisation and the extent to which the best people have left and some of those who were disrupted by rent-seeking activities."

Gordhan vowed that Eskom had put in place a plan to avoid implementing rotational load-shedding for the coming five months during the winter period, saying that if it would at most implement Stage 1 load-shedding and only if it became necessary to prevent the national grid collapsing. 

African News Agency (ANA)