Open cards needed on Eskom split


We concur with President Cyril Ramaphosa that when it comes to fixing troubled Eskom, "we do not have the luxury of time".

The power utility has announced a new round of "load-shedding" to avoid a shutdown of its operations. With SA dependent on the parastatal for 90% of its power supply, this latest round of load-shedding will not only inconvenience South Africans but it will also negatively affect productivity.

We have been in this quagmire for over 12 years now without a lasting solution in sight. Matters got worse in the last five years when the power utility fell into the hands of a faction within the ruling ANC, which saw Eskom as a perfect vehicle to enrich their friends, who included then president Jacob Zuma's close friends, the Gupta brothers.

Ramaphosa has been trying to clean up the mess at Eskom and other state-owned entities that were crippled by state capture.

His announcement during his State of the Nation Address that Eskom would now be split into three entities should be seen in the context of him trying to fix things.

Although widely welcomed by organised business and energy industry experts who see the "unbundling" as a move that would encourage efficiency and transparency, it has been widely rejected by organised labour.

Unions fear the proposed split will lead to job losses.

Ramaphosa yesterday denied claims that the split will lead to privatisation. He promised to work closely with unions to address their concerns.

We, however, believe that the controversy is as a result of the government's failure to communicate openly about the motives behind the decision.

Last year, the president appointed a task team to look at a turnaround strategy for Eskom, which is around R420bn in debt. While we may deduce that the decision to "unbundle" the company came from the task team, the president is yet to tell us so.

He needs to make the task team's findings public so that the public can make up its mind.

We're currently stuck in a meaningless ideological debate about whether Eskom is being privatised or not. And that path, we know from previous experiences, can only lead to yet another political stalemate.

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