Cyril also to blame for Eskom mess

President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Image: Esa Alexander

It is not often that we get to hear a sitting president saying he is angry and shocked by the actions of an entity that belongs to his government. Nor is it usual for a minister of government to tell parliament that billions of rand spent building two new power stations that were supposed to solve the country's energy crisis were not spent optimally.

Yet this is exactly what we have heard from President Cyril Ramaphosa and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan over the past two days.

Ramaphosa's expression of anger and shock over Eskom's latest round of blackouts was particularly puzzling because, for at least the last three years, he has been intricately involved with processes that were meant to rescue the institution from its crisis. Why he would not have foreseen that the power utility was headed for another load-shedding season is hard to understand.

His ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa seemed to be suggesting that the latest round of blackouts were part of a "sabotage" campaign that has been unleashed by sinister forces just days after the president delivered his State of the Nation Address that gave hope of an economic turnaround in the near future.

As for Gordhan, he conceded in the National Assembly yesterday that the Medupi and Kusile power stations, which the government for years sold as a solution to power shortages, were "badly designed and badly constructed and are not performing at optimum levels".

It is mainly because of this, he suggested, that SA today finds itself in the dark several years after it was announced that "load-shedding is a thing of the past".

All of this points to the poor management of the parastatal both by its executives and the political principals.

As much as the previous administration under former president Jacob Zuma is to blame for much of the mess and the collapse of governance at Eskom, Ramaphosa, Gordhan, the current Eskom board and executives have not done much over the last year to show that their turnaround plan is working. It is high time they focused all their energies to fixing the problem rather than leaving the executives to their own devices while trying to convince the citizens and the world that all was under control at the power utility.

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