Political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki said the ANC government broke Eskom by dismantling the established systems and imposing Affirmative Action and BEE on the power utility.
Mbeki’s comment came after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that China is supporting South Africa in addressing its energy crisis.
The support includes donating emergency power equipment worth R167 million and a grant of R500 million as development assistance.
“Energy cooperation with China is a recent development that we look to deepen, particularly in line with our commitments to low-carbon, climate-resilient development,” Ramaphosa said.
Although this assistance is welcome, Mbeki said Eskom’s challenge is not money but rather management.
“Our power supply problems have been with us since 2007. It can, therefore, not be about money. We would have found the money in that period to solve the problem,” he said.
“It is an Eskom management problem. There is something very wrong about how Eskom is managed and who owns the power utility.”
Mbeki said China means well and is doing what it can but can’t solve Eskom’s management problem.
“The South African government is too embarrassed to ask the Chinese to manage Eskom for us,” he said.
“So, the South African government will accept components, equipment, and money. However, that is not Eskom’s problem.”
Mbeki added that the newly appointed Electricity Minister had not made much difference in load-shedding.
“I have yet to see load-shedding disappear from my home and office. The narrative is changing, but the practice has not changed,” he said.
“It is unfair to think one person can make a big difference in the management of Eskom, considering its tremendous size.”
How the ANC government broke Eskom
Eskom was founded in March 1923 as the Electricity Supply Commission (ESCOM) to provide the country with reliable and affordable electricity.
It became a world-leading power utility, and by 1990, Eskom supplied more than half of the electricity in Africa. It even won Power Company of the Year in 2001.
However, things started deteriorating in the 2000s, and South Africa experienced its first load-shedding in 2007.
Mbeki explained that the National Party and the old apartheid regime had comprehensive training programs for their own people.
“They had apprenticeship programs, management programmes, and degree programmes. In many cases, the father, son, and daughter worked for the same company,” he said.
The National Party, therefore, had a very tight management system to ensure Eskom had the necessary skills to operate efficiently.
When the ANC government took power, it had no system to train people and ensure the necessary skills transfer.
“They also imposed many philosophies, like Affirmative Action and Black Economic Empowerment, on Eskom.”
“As a result, the ANC government was unable to manage what it inherited from the apartheid regime.”
He proposed the privatisation of state-owned enterprises like Eskom to ensure they function as expected.
“The state-owned companies which were privatised, like Sasol, are still running quite well, which shows we should have looked at privatisation,” Mbeki said.