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Eskom not broken or dysfunctional, says Pravin Gordhan in heated debate

Gordhan confidently promised Eskom would be turned around within a decade

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. File photo.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday told MPs Eskom was neither broken nor dysfunctional but faced serious challenges.

The country has been grappling with rolling blackouts for more than a decade. Gordhan, however, says the utility's board, management and government are working to eliminate the challenges it faces.

 “I can assure this house and the public there is a lot of hard work notwithstanding the hurdles and the difficulties we face, but at the same time let us be frank, this is not a task that is ever easy nor is it going to be a quick fix,” he said during a debate in the National Assembly on the “energy crisis and the threat of protracted failure of Eskom”.

“Eskom is not broken, it is not dysfunctional, but it does have a crisis and serious challenges. It will take time to resolve some of these challenges and in particular, if we are able to acquire 4000-6000MW additional energy for Eskom we create space for the kind of maintenance that needs to occur.”

Gordhan was the last speaker in the heated debate where MPs expressed their frustrations at the state of affairs at Eskom and load-shedding. Most opposition parties put the blame squarely on the ANC-led government and officials implicated in wrongdoing, particularly those implicated in the state capture report. 

However, Gordhan said the attacks on the party were not justified as some individuals were truly committed to fixing the mess in state-owned institutions. 

“Reference to the ANC as criminals is wrong. There are many honest, dedicated, patriotic South Africans who are members of the ANC, just as there are members of the DA, EFF, IFP or any other party. These are honest people who want honest government, who want the state to work for the people, who want corrupt people to — like many of you have said — end up in an orange uniform.

“Don’t [call us] all thugs, we are not. We are the people trying to fix SA, we are the people who want to fix institutions such as Eskom and we will succeed at the end of the day,” he said.

Mkhuleko Hlengwa of the IFP lamented the 26 days of load-shedding so far this year costing the country billions of rand. Eskom’s national control manager has told parliament they predicted 100 days of rolling blackout throughout winter.

“How can a statement like this be uttered without an urgent response from government? While our country and the economy is on the verge of collapse Eskom has advised that blackouts will cost SA billions of rand and yet it takes an opposition party, like the IFP, to raise the alarm.

Eskom has become a curse word in every household in our country because this entity is unable to  deliver on its mandate to generate enough energy to power our national grid
Mkhuleko Hlengwa, IFP MP

“Estimates gauge that load-shedding costs SA’s economy R500m per stage, per day. Eskom has become a curse word in every household in our country because this entity is unable to deliver on its mandate to generate enough energy to power our national grid,” said Hlengwa.  

Gordhan said he took responsibility for whatever had been done, but assured MPs they would “cure whatever has been done”. A plan was in place to address challenges, most of which were inherited from the previous administration.

“Like the public, we are also impatient and want to see results and an end to load-shedding. It’s going to take time, resilience, determined efforts and lots of hurdles along the way.”   

Gordhan confidently predicted Eskom would be turned around within a decade.   

“The Eskom that we know today won’t be the Eskom you will recognise in 10 years' time. It will be a completely different entity. 

“It is this ANC administration, starting in 2018, that takes the responsibility to ensure that in time there will be energy security and it will transform Eskom.”


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