Photographer Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
PARLIAMENT - South Africans could face load shedding until at least the end of March if the current electricity supply crisis persists, Parliament's public enterprises portfolio committee was informed on Tuesday.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and his acting director general Thuto Shomang briefed MPs on the problems facing the power utility which led to breakdowns at power stations and resulted in rotational power cuts.

Gordhan told MPs engineers from Italy would be flown in to work with local counterparts to get to the bottom of the operational woes at power stations which has led to consumer demand surpassing the amount of electricity available.

The minister said design flaws with the Medupi and Kusile power stations, which were meant to be a buffer to guard against power cuts when planned and unplanned outages occurred, also needed serious attention. 

He did not rule out the possibility of litigation should they uncover wrongdoing related to the building of the two power stations which have seen massive cost overruns (Medupi from R24.9 billion to R145 billion and Kusile from R80.7billion to R161.4 billion).

"Eskom's current dilemma is on the operational side that we do not have the safety margins that the Medupi and Kusile construction should have provided and secondly...there's planned maintenance, unplanned maintenance and outages we are confronted with at the moment," said Gordhan. 

"As we sit here even today, some additional units have actually become dsyfuncitonal..."

Earlier, Shomang told MPs Eskom was technically insolvent and would cease to exist in April this year without a bailout from government. An announcement in this regard was expected when Finance Minister Tito Mboweni tables the 2019 budget next week.

Shomang said the current crisis followed years of mismanagement, corruption, and bad decision-making, among a host of other failures.

Shomang presented MPs with a diagnostic of the operational and financial crisis the power utility finds itself in.

He said the cash generated at the utility was not covering operating and debt servicing costs, the headcount had increased from 32,000 to 48,000 between 2007 and 2018, with the associated costs growing from R9.5 billion to R25.9 bln, while municipal debt was growing at around R1bln a month.

Gordhan again apologised to South Africans, saying government was working closely with the board to end the crisis.

"The bottom line is that we are going to have difficulties for a short while and the board will ensure together with management as will government that this experience we're having of severe loadshedding is as short as possible...and ensure it doesn't become a permanent feature for South Africa."

African News Agency (ANA)