Kimberley – State-owned power utility Eskom is "too big to fail", President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday.
Delivering the African National Congress's 108th annual January 8 statement at the Tafel Lager Stadium in Kimberley in the Northern Cape, Ramaphosa said: “Eskom is the largest company in our country, it is too big to fail. We will not allow Eskom to fail. We will rebuild it so it can execute its developmental mandate.
“Eskom will be restored to becoming a company that can provide energy. We are not going to privatise Eskom, we are going to strengthen Eskom so it can deliver energy as it should,” he said.
Government was addressing the “concerns” citizens had about load shedding. "Right now, we understand the concerns South African’s have about the load shedding we have almost on a daily basis. These are challenges we are addressing.
“At the same time, the Eskom management and board must maintain the power stations; many are old. The new ones we have built have design challenges, which is why they keep tripping, leading to load shedding.
“Obviously this has a negative impact on the economy and our people, particularly those in hospitals. We urgently need Eskom management to move with speed to restore the power stations and ensure that new energy we will procure should come on stream,” Ramaphosa said, adding that he had “no doubt” Eskom would be restored.
Earlier in his speech, Ramaphosa said job creation remained the central priority for the ANC-led government in 2020.
“To achieve a far greater pace of economic growth, we will step-up our investment drive, launch a massive infrastructure build programme, reduce the cost of doing business, and see to the creation of jobs and expand pathways for young people into the world of work."
Ramaphosa told the subdued crowd that government would unlock the potential of small businesses, cooperatives, and the township economy, and would continue to “revamp and re-open industrial parks to enhance job creation”.
“We will continue to promote sectors like manufacturing, tourism, agriculture, and the oceans economy as major areas for employment growth. More special economic zones will be opened for further employment creation,” Ramaphosa said.
However, for these plans to succeed, a stable electricity supply was needed. “This means that we must accelerate the introduction of new electricity generation by private companies. We must also find new sources of energy such as gas and intermediate energy that can be brought on ships. We must complete the measures undertaken to ensure the financial and operational stability of Eskom.
“We will accelerate the process of transforming Eskom into an effective and reliable electricity supplier that can operate in an open, competitive energy sector,” Ramaphosa said.
The 11,000-seat stadium is the smallest the governing party has ever used for its anniversary celebrations. However, ANC national executive committee member Fikile Mbalula said after Ramaphosa's address that with "overflow", the crowd numbered 25,000.