South Africa

Eskom collapse getting worse

South Africans are facing another decade of rolling blackouts, and we have joined Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and Lebanon as a country with an unstable electricity supply.

It is according to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) senior researcher Monique le Roux.

Le Roux said the South African economy lost R560 billion because of load-shedding in 2022, and things are unlikely to change in the next few years.

She said although it is challenging to predict the future, another ten years of load-shedding is a possible scenario.

President Cyril Ramaphosa told South Africans that plans are in the pipeline to end load-shedding, which include returning Eskom’s generation capacity to optimum performance.

“This responsibility will be given to capable and qualified individuals. We will also lead a campaign against illegal connections,” he said.

Many people are sceptical about Ramaphosa’s promises as it is nothing they have not heard before.

In September 2015, Ramaphosa told the country load-shedding would be over by September 2017 at the latest.

“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power or energy and Eskom ever existed,” he said.

Load-shedding continued, and on 30 September 2019, Ramaphosa told the country “a clear strategy to place Eskom on a sustainable path of recovery” was being finalised.

Ramaphosa announced the plan during his State of the Nation address on 13 February 2020, but he has not followed through.

Load-shedding continued to worsen despite continued promises by the government and Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter that things would improve.

Rapid deterioration at Eskom

Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said there are two main reasons for Eskom’s collapse – corruption and race-based policies.

  • Corruption and greed have seen criminals steal the power utility dry under the guise of black economic empowerment (BEE).
  • Race-based policies like affirmative action have destroyed institutional knowledge and skills at Eskom.

These challenges are not effectively addressed. There is still widespread corruption at Eskom, and the government has doubled down on race and gender policies at the power utility.

Eskom generation executive Rhulani Mathebula added that fraud, corruption, funding constraints, poor planning, and shoddy work are crushing the power utility.

Mathebula said the impact of fraud and corruption is felt throughout the company and undermines any effort by the great engineers and other staff at Eskom.

The problems include people stealing coal and diesel, damaging plants to get maintenance contracts, and delivering the wrong spares and equipment.

Because of corruption and fraud, there are significant delays in awarding contracts and “shady service providers” who do very poor work are employed.

The numbers tell the story

The impact of Eskom’s deterioration is clearly seen in data shared by energy expert Chris Yelland.

Yelland tracked Eskom’s total week-on-week energy availability factor (EAF) – the percentage of Eskom’s fleet producing electricity relative to its maximum potential generating capacity.

It showed that the EAF rapidly declined over the last 5 years, dropping to nearly 50% in December 2022.

It means that nearly half of Eskom’s power plant capacity is unavailable because of breakdowns or maintenance.

The result of Eskom’s declining EAF is that it cannot produce enough power to satisfy demand. Load-shedding is, therefore, implemented to prevent a total grid collapse.

Data by EskomSePush showed that load-shedding increased from 1,153 hours in 2021 to 3,776 hours in 2022.


Top JSE indices