ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula said former Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter brought South Africa load-shedding and “then left us”.
Mbalula made these comments during a media briefing following the ruling party’s national executive committee lekgotla.
“Andre de Ruyter is a CEO with ideology and politics. A man who has brought us load-shedding and left us,” Mbalula said. “He resigned and left us with a disaster called load-shedding.”
He also lambasted De Ruyter for his comments on the ghost of communism looming large in the corridors of the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House.
“That man is now speaking politics from the United States. He says he is giving us advice,” Mbalula said.
He criticised De Ruyter for sharing neo-liberal ideas. “If you analyse it deeper, that is neo-liberal politics.”
These comments drew criticism as load-shedding was caused by the government’s decision to ignore a 1998 white paper which warned of an impending energy crisis.
In December 1998, the Department of Minerals and Energy under Penuell Maduna wrote, “Eskom’s present generation capacity surplus will be fully utilised by about 2007”.
This warning formed part of a White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa, which is still available on the department’s website.
The White Paper stated that Eskom was the world’s fourth largest electricity utility, with an installed generating capacity of about 39,000 MW in 1997.
The maximum demand in 1997 was about 28,330 MW. Eskom forecasted that for an assumed demand growth of 4.2%, its generation capacity surplus would run out by about 2007.
“Timely steps will have to be taken to ensure that demand does not exceed available supply capacity and that appropriate strategies, including those with long lead times, are implemented in time,” it said.
“The next decision on supply-side investments will probably have to be taken by the end of 1999 to ensure that the electricity needs of the next decade are met.”
The White Paper from the Department of Minerals and Energy proves that the government was warned about the energy crisis.
In 2007, South Africa’s electricity demand exceeded supply for the first time, and Eskom was forced to implement load-shedding to prevent a national blackout.
After load-shedding hit South Africa in 2007, former President Thabo admitted that the government was warned about an energy shortage.
He said his government should have heeded pleas by Eskom several years ago to invest more in electricity generation to keep up with the country’s economic growth.
“When Eskom said to the government, ‘We think we must invest more in electricity generation’, we said no, but all you will be doing is just to build excess capacity,” he said.
Over the next fifteen years, the ANC government created an environment of corruption and mismanagement, which left the country in the electricity mess it faces today.
So, while load-shedding increased under De Ruyter’s tenure as Eskom CEO, it is misguided to say he ‘brought us load-shedding’ or blame him for the electricity crisis.