‘Eskom was told to keep the lights on at all costs until elections’

The DA marches to the Union Buildings to #KeepTheLightsOn. Picture: Twitter
The DA marches to the Union Buildings to #KeepTheLightsOn. Picture: Twitter

The DA says the ANC is forcing the power utility to procure diesel ‘at all costs’ to avoid losing Gauteng

The DA says Eskom employees are scrambling to keep the lights on by any means possible, in line with strict orders from government to keep it that way until the election on May 8.

Further pressure was exerted last week by the presence of ratings agency Moody’s in the country, but the opposition party insists that, over and above the economic considerations, the ANC is wary of losing electoral support because of the blackouts.

Two weeks ago, South Africa was thrown into total darkness after Eskom continued with load shedding, citing a shortage of capacity.

Then last week, the power utility announced that it had suspended load shedding, citing an improvement in plant performance with the return of five units.

The decision by the SA National Roads Agency Limited to suspend the process of pursuing Gauteng’s e-toll defaulters is also seen as part of electioneering by the ANC.

This comes amid fears that the ANC could lose Gauteng in the upcoming election.

The DA’s spokesperson for public enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, said Eskom employees told the party last week that they had been instructed to keep the lights on at all costs.

“Some are telling us that they have been given the instruction to keep the lights on at all costs,” she said.

“People are literally living in fear for their lives. They are sending code messages and phoning on private numbers so that we don’t know who they are.

“We know that Moody’s is in the country, so obviously, it is quite important that the lights stay on because it could affect very much the kind of rating that Moody’s will give them.

“The ANC is haemorrhaging votes because of the fact that the lights are going off all the time.”

Mazzone said power stations were being pushed to the very limits.

“They do not operate through maximum power because they have not been maintained. We also know that diesel is being procured. We are even getting messages that people are being told that they are not allowed to sell diesel to anyone who is not Eskom related. They are procuring as much diesel as they can at whatever cost.”

The DA said the ANC-led government had chosen to burn billions of rands of diesel in a desperate attempt to keep the lights on until election day.

On Friday, the party held a protest across the country against the effect of blackouts caused by Eskom.

DA-led municipalities want Energy Minister Jeff Radebe to allow them to bypass Eskom and procure electricity directly from independent power producers.

ANC head of elections Fikile Mbalula told City Press on Saturday that voters could choose whether or not they wanted to listen to people with half-baked ideas.

“We are talking about resolving issues, learning from experience and using that experience to bring about a permanent solution,” he said in response to the DA.

He said there was a need to take “bold and decisive decisions” on Eskom, including “putting issues of unbundling on the table, without an option of privatisation”.

“If we do not do it, Eskom will basically collapse on us. We have long-term challenges with regard to Eskom. What brought everything to a halt and to stage 4 was a cyclone in Mozambique.”

When asked how the ANC had intervened to keep the lights on, Mbalula would only say that the party had promised to intervene.

Acting ANC national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party had intervened through its deployees in government, including President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“We are intervening permanently now to ensure that the lights are kept on through our deployees in government, particularly the president as the head of state. It is a matter that the ANC is concerned about.

“We cannot go on with blackouts and an unstable electricity supply as it threatens jobs and investment potential, and increases the level of crime. It is a matter that we can’t leave to chance. It is going to be important that we bring about stability in the provision of electricity.”

Although Legoete shrugged off claims that the Eskom crisis would harm the ANC at the polls, he said the party was concerned that the power utility always became a problem on the eve of elections.

“That, by inference, suggests that people will be demoralised to vote for the ANC. But I do not think it will have an impact.”

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