There is a plan to end load-shedding, but it will take time: Pravin Gordhan
Minister also warns ‘corrupt’ Eskom employees to desist from nefarious activity as they get ‘paid more than adequately’
As SA is again plunged into darkness, Eskom officials say they are committed to reducing and ending load-shedding as it is “not an impossible task”.
The power utility announced it would resume load-shedding from Wednesday afternoon until 5am on Saturday.
Addressing the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Wednesday, Eskom board chairperson Prof William Makgoba, CEO André de Ruyter and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan spoke with one voice, assuring the committee of their commitment to turn around the entity.
“As the Eskom board we do believe we have a plan. We are mindful of the role we play in the wellbeing of South Africans. We all want to reduce load-shedding and bring it to an end. It is not an impossible task,” said Makgoba.
MPs appeared unconvinced, asking how long the load-shedding crisis would continue and, ultimately, how long it would take to stabilise the entity. Gordhan would not provide a definite answer.
The bottom line, honourable member, is that until we can put a few more thousand megawatts onto the system we cannot be definite.Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan
“The bottom line, honourable member, is that until we can put a few more thousand megawatts onto the system we cannot be definite.” To achieve more output, the utility would have to do better maintenance and operations.
Gordhan admitted that a number of factors hindered plans to deal with the load-shedding crisis, including the Covid-19 pandemic, a lack of maintenance, poor procurement response times and corruption.
He admitted Eskom would need government support to end load-shedding.
“What we require in government is an integrated response to this crisis, one which ensures that each role player, in terms of the legislation that informs their work, does what is necessary, does it timeously and does it with a necessary sense of urgency to ensure the work that needs to be done to stabilise the utility is done.”
For now, Eskom has to repair existing plants and power stations, complete its unbundling process and introduce changes required in terms of energy transition, starting at the Komati Power plant.
“There is a plan. It is, however, going to take time,” said Gordhan.
The minister slammed a culture of corruption and shortcuts among Eskom employees: “Culture change is easy to talk about, but difficult to get going.”
He appealed to MPs to work together despite their political affiliation, and speak in one voice to Eskom employees.
“All of your voices need to be added to ours to tell the people at Eskom that you work for us, South Africa, and it is important you become honest workers because you get paid more than adequately and stop any nefarious activity that you might be involved in because it is causing huge damage to Eskom and the country.”
Turning to the entity’s annual report, CFO Calib Cassim told the committee Eskom made significant strides in raising funds to stay afloat. It raised R19bn despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, but admitted that without government support, Eskom would not have met its debt obligation.