Daily Maverick

Thabo Mbeki swipes at Eskom bosses, calls for better leadership

- By Queenin Masuabi Former South African president Thabo Mbeki Photo:Gallo Images/Darren Stewart

Former president Thabo Mbeki took a veiled swipe at Eskom executives this week, in the wake of rolling blackouts. Speaking at the University of South Africa in Tshwane on Wednesday 21 September, Mbeki quoted former statistici­an-general Pali Lehohla: “Eskom is a big business and, therefore, in terms of its leadership, you need engineers and economists but instead we have politician­s and accountant­s.”

Said Mbeki: “I am not saying Pali was right, but this is what he said. He was looking at this question; I am trying to raise the quality of leadership in our country.”

Mbeki questioned why Medupi and Kusile power stations continue to break down despite being Eskom’s newest stations.

Earlier this year, while responding orally to questions from members of Parliament, Deputy President David Mabuza said Eskom had made progress in identifyin­g design defects at the power stations and was rectifying them, but this process would only be concluded by the end of 2027.

Rolling blackouts began in 2007, when Mbeki was president. In January 2008, he apologised for load shedding and said the government took “collective responsibi­lity” for not heeding Eskom’s warnings about contrained power generation capacity.

A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, had the power crisis at the top of the agenda. This followed a virtual emergency meeting on Sunday, in which several ministers discussed how to tackle the crisis. At the meeting were National Energy Crisis Committee members.

After Wednesday’s meeting, Cabinet spokespers­on Phumla Williams said Public Enterprise­s Minister Pravin Gordhan had briefed colleagues on Eskom capacity and a progress report by the technical committee of the National Energy Crisis Committee.

“Cabinet expressed regret that intermitte­nt load shedding is happening at the time when the government is vigorously engaged with interventi­ons announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022 to overcome the surmountab­le energy crisis.”

Rolling blackouts began in 2007, when Mbeki was president. In January 2008, he apologised for load shedding and said the government took ‘collective responsibi­lity’ for not heeding

Eskom’s warnings

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