CAPE TOWN, December 6 – Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Thursday announced emergency steps to prevent further stage 2 load-shedding and confirmed longer-term plans to separate Eskom’s generation and distribution capacities.
Gordhan told a media briefing at the power utility’s Megawatt Park headquarters public irritation with sustained load-shedding was understandable and that the utility had cancelled senior managers’ leave in a bid to keep the lights on over the festive season.
He apologised to the country for the inconvenience planned outages had caused and said he had told Eskom that it was not communicating the crisis adequately to the public.
Consumers were, for example, confused to find that they were experiencing load-shedding when their area was not scheduled to have an outage at that particular time, he said.
“Sending out a tweet about load-shedding is not communicating,” he said.
He added that Eskom would have “a very intensive look over the next ten days at what exactly the problems are” and that “hopefully from the end of next week we will not see the level of load-shedding we have been having”.
The minister confirmed that Medupi and Kusile power plants were not functioning optimally and said the blame should go to contractors.
Chief operations officer Jan Oberholzer suggested that the company would seek answers from Hitachi and confirmed that the cause for planned outages this week was not the company’s coal shortage but the unavailability of generation plants.
Gordhan and Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza confirmed that the company and shareholder had placed plans before ratings agencies to split Eskom’s generation and distribution functions as part of a future strategy to stabilise the loss-making utility.
Gordhan was emphatic that there would be no privatisation, saying that was a false narrative advanced by those who wanted to undermine efforts to arrest corruption and state capture.
“We all know that recapturing institutions that were under state capture is not the favourite thing that people want, some people because we have cut the supply chain,” he said.
He said these were the people who were suggesting that privatisation was in the pipeline to swing public sentiment in the run-up to next year’s elections.
Neither Gordhan nor Mabuza would respond to questions on how Eskom’s debt of R419 billion would be spread once its different functions were split up. They said this required more planning. (ANA)