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What Ramaphosa, Zuma and Mbeki said about ending load-shedding

26 April 2022 - 14:00
The energy landscape is being transformed, problems at Eskom are being addressed and substantial new generation capacity is being built, says President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo.
The energy landscape is being transformed, problems at Eskom are being addressed and substantial new generation capacity is being built, says President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo.
Image: Sebabatso Mosamo/Sunday Times

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to end Eskom’s load-shedding has been thrust into the spotlight and is drawing mixed reactions online. 

In his weekly newsletter the president said the rolling blackouts are costly for the economy and cause significant frustration and hardship for citizens and businesses. He said the government was trying to do everything to make load-shedding a thing of the past.

Ramaphosa’s statement comes after the embattled power utility last week announced there could be as many as 101 days of load-shedding this winter.

Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso said the power utility’s board and CEO Andre De Ruyter were not to blame for its historic failures. She said the ANC-led government is to blame.

Here is what Ramaphosa and former presidents Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki said about load-shedding

What Ramaphosa said 

He said the government is determined to ensure rolling blackouts, which have been part of SA for more than 10 years, come to an end.

“A stable and reliable supply of electricity is essential for almost every aspect of our daily lives and a necessary condition for economic growth. That is why we are focused on achieving energy security as one of our foremost priorities,” he said. 

“Even as we continue to experience crippling load-shedding, the reality is that much progress has been made towards ending our energy supply challenges.”

During his state of the nation address (Sona) earlier this year, Ramaphosa said Eskom had established a separate transmission subsidiary and is on track to complete its unbundling by December 2022.

“The utility has continued with its intensive maintenance programme to reverse many years of neglected maintenance and underperformance of existing plants,” he said

Last year Ramaphosa said Eskom was “working hard” to improve the performance of its existing fleet of power stations, reduce its debt burden and complete its restructuring process.

In 2019, at events including the Sona and  Cape Town Mining Indaba, Ramaphosa said Eskom had made “much progress” in implementing a nine-point plan, improving maintenance of its generation fleet, reducing costs and ensuring adequate reserves of coal.

What Zuma said 

In 2016, after a meeting with Eskom management, the former president said power outages were common on the continent but the power utility was doing a great job.

He said he would tell the nation they would not experience load-shedding ever again.

In 2015, Zuma said load-shedding was likely to last for three more years after the government completed a medium-term outlook model for the supply of and demand for electricity in the country.

In his response to the 2015 presidency budget vote debate, Zuma said: “The model indicates demand will exceed supply for the next 24 to 36 months. To increase supply, Eskom is implementing a structured planned maintenance programme to ensure the availability of all power stations is improved.”

What Mbeki said

In 2007, at the height of regularly scheduled mandatory load-shedding, the former president made his first formal apology to the nation about the government not listening to Eskom. 

After meeting Eskom, Mbeki said: “When Eskom said to the government, ‘We think we must invest more in terms of electricity generation’, we said: ‘No, all you will be doing is to build excess capacity.’ We said: ‘Not now, later.’ We were wrong. Eskom was right.”

Mbeki’s public apology came at a time when the country was experiencing the worst power cuts in years.

The power cuts saw Eskom start rationing electricity as part of the solution to the failure. 

In 2008, former general secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions Zwelinzima Vavi grilled Mbeki for failing to invest in new generating capacity 10 years ago, when indications were first given the country would run short of electricity.

“Why have more energy-intensive investment projects like the additional smelter been approved by the government when it should have been clear we were running short of capacity for the economy and society’s needs?

“Why was the first load-shedding managed so incompetently when senior management should have been aware problems were inevitable and ought to have had a crisis plan ready?” Vavi asked at the time. 

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