Babalo Ndenze

Political Bureau

PUBLIC Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba would never support “wasteful and insensitive” behaviour and would hold a meeting with officials from his department to have a R36 million Eskom party bonanza explained to him, his spokesman said yesterday.

This comes after City Press reported Eskom had spent R36m on parties for its staff and their families last year. It also follows the bonus drama at Eskom after board and management team bonuses last year amounted to R54m.

The DA said it would write to the chairman of the National Assembly’s committee on public enterprises, Peter Maluleka, to ask that Eskom chief executive Brian Dames be called before the committee to account for staff party costs.

Gigaba’s spokesman, Mayihlome Tshwete, said: “Eskom must be sensitive to the economic situation of consumers in SA and there is no way the minister can support things like wasteful behaviour.

“He will be getting a further briefing from the department about the matter. There’s no support for that, but there’s a need to evaluate what exactly went down.”

City Press reported that it had obtained details of the spending after filing a promotion of access to information application. Information showed Eskom had spent R36.5m on seven “family fun days”.

DA public enterprises spokeswoman Natasha Michael said Eskom’s spending was “reckless” in the light of the National Treasury’s consideration of a multi-year price determination proposal in which Eskom was calling for an almost 100 percent increase in electricity prices over the next five years.

Reports of reckless spending by Eskom “raise serious questions about its commitment to delivering energy solutions to grow the economy and improve the quality of life of people in South Africa”, she said.

“Over the past three years, tariffs have increased by 24.8 percent, 25.2 percent and 16.09 percent. SA consumers cannot be expected to continue making sacrifices to save electricity and to contribute a growing portion of their income to energy costs while the state-owned company… spends lavishly on parties.”

Apart from asking Maluleka to summon Dames to answer questions from the National Assembly’s committee, she would submit questions to Gigaba “to ask for information on the budgets for staff entertainment at all major parastatals, including Eskom, SAA, Transnet and Alexkor”.

Michael said parastatals could not continue to demand major price hikes and government bailouts if they did not show a commitment to spending their funds wisely.

Eskom’s Hillary Joffe told City Press the parties had been intended to boost morale.