What on Earth is happening at Eskom? If the past few days’ events are anything to go by, no one really knows. We’re all in the dark. This week the national electricity utility suspended their CEO Tshediso Matona along with three other executives, pending an inquiry on the state of the energy supplier. Eskom chairman, Zola Tsotsi, revealed that the inquiry was solely to review the utility’s problems—stressing that the suspensions were only for the sake of transparency and that none of the executives had been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“The board in its quest to address the current challenges faced by Eskom has deemed it prudent to seek an independent view of the status of, among other things, the poor performance of generation plants… the high cost of primary energy, and cash flow challenges,” said Tsotsi at a press briefing on Thursday. “To ensure that this process is transparent… the board has also resolved that four of its senior executives, including the chief executive, should step aside for the duration of this inquiry,” he later added.
Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown has welcomed the inquiry, citing her concerns with “the financial liquidity of the utility; the lack of credible information [and] the unreliable supply of electricity and its dire impact our economy,” she said in a statement.
“Since the start of load shedding, I have been inundated with complaints from the public and businesses about the reliability of the grid and its impact on the lives of ordinary men and women,” Brown said, also adding that the inquiry “should be deep-dive into the company to tell us what is wrong and how it should be fixed.”
The Department of Energy announces plan to limit risk of load shedding
With its silos collapsing and its leadership rapidly following suit, on Tuesday the Department of Energy appeared before the Portfolio Committee on Energy and brought them up to date with the progress of their “Five Point Plan” to address the energy crisis. The plan, which was adopted mid-December last year, features short and medium term (the next three years) strategies to lower the risk of load shedding. Some of the strategies include co-generation (which will see Eskom extending its current agreement with other electricity suppliers to help supplement the generation of electricity) and gas imports—the government “embarking on country to country negotiations to access gas from African countries that are able to supply South Africa.”
So what happens now?
And now, we wait. Whether government’s five point plan will yield positive results is yet to be seen and similarly we can only speculate what the outcome of their internal inquiry will be. What is abundantly apparent is that Eskom is in trouble. Serious trouble. With the country losing an estimated R20 billion a month whenever Eskom implements load-shedding, blackouts aren’t just a minor inconvenience that result in a cold shower every now and then. These are dark days for South Africa—figuratively and quite literally. You know it’s time to shout “crisis” when a minister criticises the national power supplier’s “lack of credible information”. Eskom has truly left all of us in the dark.
For a comprehensive breakdown of Eskom’s five point plan, check out this infographic by the People’s Assembly.
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