Eskom suits sent to coal­face of cri­sis

Gordhan can­cels leave for man­agers as power util­ity bat­tles to keep lights on

Sowetan - - News - By Lukanyo Mnyanda and Ahmed Ar­eff

As the coun­try faces daily planned power cuts, which are seen as a threat to the econ­omy, all Eskom man­agers have been or­dered to can­cel their hol­i­day leave.

The man­agers would be de­ployed to in­di­vid­ual power sta­tions to get a sense of what’s hap­pen­ing on the ground, pub­lic en­ter­prises minister Pravin Gordhan told the me­dia at a briefing at the fi­nan­cially dire state util­ity’s of­fices in Jo­han­nes­burg yesterday.

Gordhan said the pe­riod be­tween De­cem­ber 15 and Jan­uary 15 the de­mand drops, and no power cuts – Eskom’s “load-shed­ding” – are ex­pected dur­ing that time.

He said Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa would soon an­nounce a task team to con­fig­ure a road map for the next five years to help turn the trou­bled com­pany around.

“This was one of the cen­tres of state cap­ture,” Gordhan said.

Busi­ness Day re­ported on Wed­nes­day that Eskom would ask the gov­ern­ment to take R100bn of its debt onto its own bal­ance sheet.

While the move would give Eskom re­lief, it would add an­other two per­cent­age points to the gov­ern­ment’s debt-toGDP ra­tio and could be seen as neg­a­tive by credit-rat­ings agen­cies.

Gordhan said there was noth­ing def­i­nite with re­gard to the R100bn fig­ure.

Cur­rently, Eskom op­er­ates thanks to a R350bn debt guar­an­tee by the gov­ern­ment.

Eskom, which sup­plies most of SA’s elec­tric­ity, has amassed R419bn debt over the past 10 years due to its huge cap­i­tal build pro­gramme. It is now un­able to pay in­ter­est costs from revenue earned, and must bor­row to ser­vice its debt. In­ter­est costs over the next three years are pro­jected to be R250bn.

Over­all debt is pro­jected to rise to R600bn over three years .

Gordhan dis­missed sug­ges­tions the gov­ern­ment would pri­va­tise Eskom, say­ing this came from peo­ple try­ing to cause po­lit­i­cal mis­chief.

He said the is­sue was about finding the money to bridge the gap be­tween revenue and ex­pen­di­ture.

With re­gard to the con­struc­tion of the two mega power sta­tions, Medupi and Kusile, Gordhan said foren­sic in­ves­ti­ga­tions had sig­nalled that con­trac­tors had been fall­ing short in de­sign and qual­ity.

“There’s go­ing to be tough talk­ing be­tween the board and man­age­ment on one hand, and with com­pa­nies.

“Some­body is mak­ing money from the dou­bling of costs in Medupi,” Gordhan said.

/MASI LOSI

Minister of pub­lic en­ter­prises Pravin Gordhan briefs the me­dia about the power out­ages that have hit the coun­try.

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