Eskom war

Eskom has become a political battleground while South African households and businesses suffer the worst load-shedding ever.

City Press reported that solving the electricity crisis is bogged down in a power struggle between three ministers with a finger in the Eskom pie.

Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa still has no legislative powers and is waiting for President Cyril Ramaphosa to empower him to perform his tasks.

However, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan reportedly hamper attempts to expand Ramokgopa’s powers.

While this political war around Eskom is playing out, the country faces extended blackouts as load-shedding intensifies.

Over the weekend, Ramokgopa proposed interventions to be implemented within the next six months to reduce load-shedding.

  • Reduce the sabotage of Eskom’s power stations and infrastructure.
  • Purchase diesel worth around R30 billion for Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs).
  • Improve the efficiency (energy availability factor) of underperforming power stations.
  • Reduce maintenance work on power stations during peak demand like winter.

Ramokgopa admitted that these interventions would not end load-shedding but would reduce it and help sustain the economy.

Tshepo Kgadima
Energy expert Tshepo Kgadima

Energy expert Tshepo Kgadima warned these interventions are not of much value in resolving the energy crisis.

“We have an electricity minister with no legislative powers, which means he should never have been appointed and that portfolio should not have been created,” Kgadima said.

“Ramokgopa is currently a public relations officer and a glorified clerk. We must accept that.

“If the president had so much confidence in him, why did he not appoint him as the new Public Enterprises Minister where he had authority over Eskom?”

He said it is tragic that the politicians who discussed the electricity crisis have no clue about electricity generation.

“If anything, they have only passed a motion of no confidence in the board of Eskom and the appointed management,” Kgadima said.

It raises the question of why the Eskom board is constrained from revealing their plans to end load-shedding. “If they don’t have any plans, why are they still there?” he asked.

“When the Eskom board was appointed, they had 90 days to come up with plans to end load-shedding. They failed.”

He added that there is not enough time to put legislative mechanisms in place for the electricity ministry to exist.

“We are seeing an unlawful interference of politicians in Eskom,” he said.

Hugo Pienaar
Hugo Pienaar, chief economist at the Bureau for Economic Research

Hugo Pienaar, chief economist at the Bureau for Economic Research at Stellenbosch University, agreed with Kgadima.

Pienaar said it is a problem that the new electricity minister’s powers have not been Gazetted, which leaves him in the dark about what he should and can do.

He added that the interventions suggested by Ramokgopa over the weekend are not new and have been happening for years.

Eskom has been burning diesel to limit load-shedding since 2008, and reducing planned maintenance during winter is nothing new.

“There is a plan. However, I get frustrated when things the electricity minister says are positioned as anything new,” Pienaar said.

He added that very little could be done in the short term to address the electricity shortfall and improve load-shedding.

Kgadima said it is unlikely that the current cabinet, Eskom board, and management will be able to address the energy crisis and deal with load-shedding effectively.

“They do not have an actionable and measurable plan in place to resolve the energy crisis,” he said.


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