Parliament to schedule urgent debate on Eskom and energy crisis

Parliament will debate SA's energy crisis, but the date still needs to be determined, according to the office of the speaker. 

Earlier this week DA MP Natasha Mazzone wrote to Speaker Baleka Mbete requesting an urgent motion for debate on the debt-laden power utility.

Eskom on Sunday, for the first time since December, implemented rotational power cuts. It has instituted cuts every day for the past five days. 

On Wednesday, Parliament's oversight committee on public enterprises heard that Eskom is technically insolvent and will threaten the SA economy if it defaults on its debt, which is 15% of the country's debt.

Currently Eskom is relying on borrowing to cover its shortfalls, as cash generated from selling electricity is not enough to cover operations, debt servicing costs and capital expenditure, the committee heard.

In her reply to Mazzone, Mbete recognised that load shedding would have an impact on the economy and is a "serious matter" that warrants the attention of the National Assembly.

The National Assembly Programme Committee is meeting on Thursday morning to determine when to hold the debate.

Task team

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told the public enterprises committee on Wednesday that everything is being done to "minimise" load shedding and hopefully within the next 10 days government and Eskom will have a better grip on the technical issues.

Gordhan and Eskom's board have agreed to source expertise from coal power station engineers from Italy to determine what is wrong at the power stations and how to best create a long-term fix.

He added that the presidential task team, which was appointed to advise government on actions to resolve Eskom's challenges, had submitted their interim report to the president.

"There is only one president in this country and he has said clearly where we are going. Eskom is a critical body… We in government have the responsibility to make sure we manage the situation in a way to give certainty of where we are going," Gordhan said.

Ramaphosa on Thursday afternoon is expected to focus on Eskom when he delivers his reply to the debate around the State of the Nation Address which has taken place in the National Assembly over the past two days.

Eskom, meanwhile, said it would implement stage 2 load shedding on Thursday from 08:00 to 22:00.

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