Govt is scrutinising Eskom leadership, says Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa
PHOTO: Jeffrey Abrahams, Gallo Images
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his weekly newsletter that the widespread public anger over load shedding is "wholly justified". 
  • Despite frustration, there was an "end in sight to our electricity crisis", he added.
  • Ramaphosa said that government was giving "close attention to the skills, experience and capabilities of the Eskom leadership".
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President Cyril Ramaphosa, who last week had to cut short an overseas trip to deal with the country’s spiralling energy crisis, on Monday sought to allay fears and calm "angry" citizens by telling South Africans without any electricity to use it sparingly.

In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa also said that government was giving "close attention to the skills, experience and capabilities of the Eskom leadership to ensure that the company has the best people at all levels of the organisation."

Department of Public Enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu said this week that an announcement would be made about the Eskom board as soon as government processes were finalised.

"The minister [Pravin Gordhan] views the filling of the vacant positions at [Eskom] board level as an urgent matter. The process to review and strengthen the Eskom board is underway."

This comes amid increased speculation that government would either replace the Eskom board, or Eskom CEO André de Ruyter - or both.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has previously questioned the skills of De Ruyter, saying he isn't the type of leader Eskom needs at the moment. 

READ | Efforts to 'strengthen' Eskom board underway, says govt

Justified anger

"For every person living in this country, the past two weeks of load shedding have been extremely frustrating and challenging. The widespread public anger is wholly justified," Ramaphosa said on Monday.

"Given the unpredictable performance of Eskom’s fleet of coal-fired power stations, we will not be able to eliminate load shedding in the short term. This is the unfortunate reality of our situation, which has had a long history.

"We must come together as citizens to alleviate the pressure on the national grid. This means using electricity sparingly, reporting illegal connections and paying for the electricity we use."

Ramaphosa said that there was an "end in sight to our electricity crisis".

He mentioned that discussions are underway to ease local content requirements for spare parts for Eskom stations, that last week Eskom launched power purchase programmes for 1 000 MW of capacity from companies  to secure imports from neighbouring countries. Last week, government also signed power purchase agreements for 420 MW with the first three preferred bidders under Bid Window 5 of the renewable energy programme.

When Ramaphosa returned to the country last week, Cabinet held a meeting where it discussed load shedding. Gordhan presented to Cabinet on Eskom’s capacity to mitigate load shedding, while it also received a progress report from the National Energy Crisis Committee - which was been tasked with implementing Ramaphosa's crisis plan announced two months ago

Cabinet said in a statement last week that it was still "deliberating" on these reports.

READ | State knows what's needed and must act on power crisis now, as SA loses R4bn a day: BUSA

Business Unity SA (BUSA) said last week, at the height of Stage 6, that the current spate of load shedding was costing the country around R4 billion a day.

BUSA’s Cas Coovadia also noted this week that the Eskom board had been at "half capacity" for two years and had been lacking "critical, technical skills in engineering" and in "strategic governance".

READ | Mantashe says De Ruyter is not the right CEO to fix Eskom – report

On Monday Ramaphosa admitted that while immediate aim was to reduce the frequency and severity of load shedding by addressing power station breakdowns, "in the past critical maintenance was not undertaken at the necessary intervals". 

De Ruyter has said on numerous occasions that a lack of crucial maintenance of Eskom's aging coal-fired fleet has led to problems with numerous generating units at its power stations, ultimately resulting in load shedding.

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