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Another lifeline for Eskom - MPs' mixed reactions to Special Appropriation Bill

Finance minister Tito Mboweni responded to MPs during the debate on Eskom bailouts.
Finance minister Tito Mboweni responded to MPs during the debate on Eskom bailouts.
Image: Esa Alexander

MPs debated the decision by finance minister Tito Mboweni and the government to give power utility Eskom yet another lifeline - this time R59bn. The DA, EFF and IFP had mixed responses to the Special Appropriation Bill which will be signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, after it has been approved by the National Council of Provinces.

This is what MPs had to say:

Eskom “too big to fail” - ANC

Sifiso Buthelezi, chair of the appropriations committee, said while the ruling party supported the bill , government needed to ensure strict conditions for the transfer of the funds. Buthelezi said the power utility was “too big to fail” and that its collapse would not only be felt by South Africans in general but Eskom's employees as well.

Buthelezi also urged municipalities to ensure that their communities paid for electricity. “We call on all people to pay for the usage of electricity. Municipalities need to perfect their billing systems.”

Bill conditions are flawed - DA

The DA's Ashor Sarupen was critical of the bill, insisting that the ANC failed to attach conditions suggested by the DA. “The bill is unconditional, it allows the minister to transfer the money to Eskom without any preconditions being met. The DA offered amendments to this bill, including that no executives at Eskom should get bonuses.”

Sarupen said the utility had “the gun to the head of this government. Every citizen of the country is held hostage by Eskom. We are hostage to load-shedding, which causes massive economic damage. We're hostage to these bailouts demands.”

Billions are not the answer - EFF 

The EFF's second in command, Floyd Shivambu, said his party did not support the bill and that the ANC needs to address the deeper issues which affect Eskom, instead of pouring billions into bailouts. He identified a lack of leadership within the power utility as one of the major issues.

“We have the chairperson of the board who is 'incompetent' and has been appointed as an acting CEO. There is no stability in terms of the leadership of Eskom.” Shivambu also argued that coal suppliers to the utility were selling coal at exorbitant prices, an issue that is “deliberately ignored by politicians”.

Our economy needs Eskom - IFP

Elphas Buthelezi said the IFP supported the bill on the basis that the economy would suffer if the power system collapsed, but he cautioned against short-term solutions. “We are fast becoming an economy which works on bailouts simply to stimulate growth and clearly, in this case, just to keep the lights on.” Buthelezi also said the state should root out corruption at Eskom, to ensure that funds were channelled correctly.

Eskom needs competition - FF Plus

The FF plus's Wouter Wynand Wessels said Eskom's crises have persisted regardless of previous bailouts and suggested that the power utility needed competition from privately owned companies to up its game.

“We need privatisation, we need unbundling of Eskom but your alliance partners are preventing you from doing it. We need to create competition for power utilities so that private firms can produce electricity, put it into the grid so there is a competitive electricity supply in SA.”