‘Keep the lights on for Christ­mas’

Eskom man­agers or­dered to can­cel leave, fo­cus on load shedding

The Mercury - - FRONT PAGE - LYSE COMINS | [email protected] See Busi­ness Re­port

PUB­LIC En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han has blamed state cap­ture, in­suf­fi­cient in­vest­ment in re­pairs, de­lays in the pro­vi­sion of power by new power plants and shoddy main­te­nance work for the rolling black­outs of re­cent weeks.

Gord­han ad­dressed the me­dia at Megawatt Park in Jo­han­nes­burg yes­ter­day on the rea­sons for Eskom’s power out­ages, which have af­fected busi­nesses and house­holds coun­try­wide, say­ing there would be “con­se­quences” for shoddy work and cor­rup­tion.

He said Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa would soon an­nounce the es­tab­lish­ment of a Cab­i­net task team to work on a five-year plan for Eskom and that there was a “fight-back” to clean up the util­ity’s gover­nance, fi­nance and op­er­a­tional per­for­mance.

Gord­han said all Eskom man­agers had been or­dered to can­cel their leave to fo­cus on elim­i­nat­ing load shedding.

How­ever, he said there should be no load shedding be­tween De­cem­ber 15 and Jan­uary 15, when de­mand was usu­ally low.

He apol­o­gised for Eskom “not com­mu­ni­cat­ing ad­e­quately” with the pub­lic on load shedding, say­ing the util­ity aimed to elim­i­nate Stage 2 load shedding in the next week.

“We are go­ing to try our best to get to a point where load shedding dis­ap­pears be­fore Christ­mas. Some news­pa­pers have been talk­ing about a dark Christ­mas. We want to re­as­sure the pub­lic we are work­ing very hard to en­sure that doesn’t hap­pen and hope by next week to give a more con­crete as­sur­ance in that re­gard,” he said.

“We want to as­sure busi­ness that by the time you get back to work in Jan­uary, we will have a much more sta­ble sit­u­a­tion and the eco­nomic im­pact of the in­sta­bil­ity of elec­tric­ity sup­ply will be some­thing that has been min­imised or elim­i­nated com­pletely.”

Gord­han said Eskom would have a skills “reshuf­fle” at man­age­ment level and the board would also call in in­de­pen­dent ex­perts to ad­vise it re­gard­ing its turn­around plans.

Gord­han said al­though Eskom had 47 000MW of in­stalled ca­pac­ity, it could only sup­ply about 27 000MW as a re­sult of un­planned out­ages be­cause of main­te­nance stop­pages.

He said cur­rent load shedding was partly caused by in­suf­fi­cient cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture on ma­jor plant parts and shoddy re­pairs to in­fra­struc­ture. He said new power plants Medupi and Kusile were also not yet able to pro­vide the ad­di­tional 7800KW planned safety-mar­gin ca­pac­ity.

Dur­ban Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try pres­i­dent Musa Makhunga said that ac­cord­ing to eThek­wini’s elec­tric­ity depart­ment, na­tional key points and some of Dur­ban’s ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ers had been ex­empt from load shedding. “But the cham­ber has en­cour­aged all mem­bers and the busi­ness com­mu­nity to en­sure that they plan ef­fec­tively to mit­i­gate the ef­fects and main­tain pro­duc­tiv­ity within their or­gan­i­sa­tions,” Makhunga said.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­cent gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) re­sults from Stats SA, South Africa had just ex­ited a tech­ni­cal re­ces­sion, Makhunga said.

“How­ever, pro­longed pe­ri­ods of load shedding will not be good for the econ­omy. It will have ad­verse ef­fects across in­dus­tries. Dur­ban and South Africa can­not af­ford sus­tained load shedding as it has a se­vere eco­nomic im­pact. With the fes­tive pe­riod around the cor­ner, there is a sig­nif­i­cant risk to the tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity sec­tors and we hope Eskom can re­solve the is­sues or pro­vide greater cer­tainty be­fore the start of the hol­i­days so that busi­nesses can plan ac­cord­ingly.”

Ef­fi­cient Group econ­o­mist Dawie Roodt said Gord­han’s re­marks were “mostly just grand­stand­ing that sounded good”. He said the prob­lem was that there were too many peo­ple work­ing for Eskom who were over­paid but were un­pro­duc­tive and had re­ceived a 7.5% wage in­crease on Gord­han’s in­struc­tion to the board.

“Politi­cians are mak­ing prom­ises and say­ing things that are good for the econ­omy but the real rea­son is too many peo­ple are be­ing paid for not re­ally work­ing and they are not pre­pared to make the break with Cosatu and say ‘you can­not keep the coun­try hostage’,” Roodt said.

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