The Democratic Alliance (DA), along with all South Africans suffering from rolling blackouts, were dumbstruck by the presentation from the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, in the Public Enterprises Committee
Gordhan announced that Eskom is “technically insolvent” and would “cease to exist” beyond April 2019, he confirmed our worst fears by saying that a government bailout is required to save Eskom. This bailout is certain to be truly massive and may even dwarf the 2015 bailout of Eskom which included a R23 billion “special appropriation” and the conversion of a R60 billion subordinated loan to worthless equity.
Gordhan’s bombshell came only hours after the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, agreed to my request for a debate on an urgent matter of national public importance focused on Eskom.
The debate has tentatively been scheduled for 21 February 2019, the day after the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, delivers his maiden Budget Speech. No doubt, the Minister will be announcing a “special appropriation” for Eskom, more commonly known as a bailout.
Eskom is in a parlous state with Stage 4 load-shedding casting all South Africans into darkness and grinding businesses to a halt. The future of Eskom is of fundamental importance to every one of us, impacting the country’s economy, our credit rating, job creation, investment, people’s livelihoods, our pockets and everyday life.
The issues at Eskom are numerous, but is becoming painfully obvious that the crisis is due to two main problems: corruption and mismanagement. We are now being presented with a clear picture of a power utility crippled by chronically failing power plants, both old and new, and with no idea how to keep the lights on. Eskom is flailing, as revealed in its latest “9 point plan for generation turnaround” which contains such gems as “prepare for rain” and “fixing human capital”.
Next week’s debate on the crisis at Eskom is crucial and, indeed, urgent as the failure of our sole power supplier spells disaster for each and every South African. The job of saving the country from ANC mismanagement is now more urgent than ever, and only one party can put an end to the corruption and mismanagement that has brought South Africa to the edge of the cliff. Only the DA can build One South Africa for All.
Natasha Mazzone MP
DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises