Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan said there were no plans by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s new administration to privatise cash-strapped power utility Eskom.
Speaking on Thursday at Eskom’s national control centre in Germiston where he was the keynote speaker, at the launch of Eskom’s system status report website, Gordhan said that in addition to the numerous changes already implemented at the state-owned entity (SOE) more changes still needed to be made to restore it to its former glory.
Gordhan said the confirmation of Phakamani Hadebe as the permanent chief executive at Eskom was a mere start to more changes that needed to happen in order to stabilise the parastatal going forward.
In May, the minister made a host of changes to Eskom and other SOE boards in order to stabilise the entities and, along with these changes, several Members of Parliament also called for some SOEs to be sold in order to lessen the burden on tax payers.
Instead of selling underperforming SOEs such as South African Airways (SAA), SA Express and Eskom, Gordhan suggested a merger between SAA, SA Express and Mango.
He reiterated on Thursday that Eskom would undergo changes to clean out the rot and not be privatised.
Gordhan said Hadebe’s integrity gave him confidence that he would be the right man to move Eskom toward the right direction.
Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the system status report website was launched as another way of demonstrating how it was moving towards being a transparent entity whose day-to-day running was public knowledge.
“This website will monitor and document the functions of all of Eskom’s power stations. It is important to note that the website will not be monitoring the live functions but information will be populated onto the website weekly, every Wednesday, for the public to also keep track on the company’s workflow,” said Phasiwe.
Phasiwe added that this was not the first time such a feature was made available by Eskom.
“We had such a website that gave South Africans access to our power stations’ output data. However, people started using it to generate fear among South Africans, misreading the information and claiming that South Africans will be experiencing load shedding.”
According to Phasiwe, even though not many changes were made to deter people from using the information to cause panic about imminent load shedding, the website was relevant as a matter of compliance with international standards where most power utilities made their functionality public knowledge.
Gordhan welcomed the launch of the website, saying that for the first time in a long time detailed information about the state of electricity supply in the country would be easily accessible.
Phasiwe said South Africans would be able to access the weekly detailed reports on the Eskom website where the cost of generation, demand forecast and network constraints will be made available.
Gordhan said that the changes that needed to be implemented at Eskom “do not mean they are privatising the power utility or selling it” but reflected “how [deeply] state capture damaged Eskom” and were necessary to root out officials implicated in wrong-doing that may still be within the entity.
The minister also assured South Africans that they would not be experiencing any load shedding this winter.
Unions and workers, however, seemed to have already lost confidence in the cash-strapped power utility as Numsa walked out of the second round of wage talks with Eskom after the company stuck to its stance of not increasing workers’ pay.
On Wednesday, the first day of the second round of wage negations with workers, Eskom did not give in on any demands‚ including on the lighter issues of maternity leave and housing.
Unions said they were prepared to “physically remove” the newly appointed top management and embark on an unprotected strike.
Numsa said talks broke down for the following reasons:
• Eskom brought specialised security armed with high calibre weapons to surround the negotiations venue on Wednesday, saying it was an attempt to intimidate unions.
• The Eskom negotiations team consistently offered a 0% increase without providing audited financial statements and they refused to disclose how much is being spent on the building programme and legal bills.
• Eskom also refused to give guarantees that there would be no corruption and mismanagement of the SOE going forward.
• The Eskom negotiations team made it clear that they did not have the power to engage on a living wage. They insisted that the only mandate they had was the 0% wage offer.
The workers union said their demands were clear and they sought:
• A one year agreement
• A 15% across the board increase
• 80% contribution to medical aid and 20% contribution by employees.
• A housing allowance increase of R2000.
• The banning of labour brokers and the insourcing of workers such as cleaners and security guards
• Paid maternity leave of 6 months and paid paternity leave of 1 month