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Let's stop pointing fingers and fix Eskom, says Mabuza when asked about role of ANC in power utility's troubles

Deputy president David Mabuza said Eskom’s legal team was redrafting contracts to recover costs from liable contractors.
Deputy president David Mabuza said Eskom’s legal team was redrafting contracts to recover costs from liable contractors.
Image: GCIS.

Deputy president David Mabuza on Thursday told the National Council of Provinces [NCOP] that placing the blame on the ANC government and the Eskom board will not solve the ongoing challenges faced by the power utility.

“This is not a way of running away from responsibility because the government of the day is the government of the ANC. But there are people who have been appointed in different positions in this power utility to do certain specific jobs.

“At a certain point these people that have been appointed have failed the government, but there is no use at pointing fingers at one another. Let us fix the problem,” said Mabuza.

He was responding to oral questions in his capacity as the chairperson of Eskom's political task team regarding progress made on correcting the design defects on newly built Medupi and Kusile power stations.

DA member Beyers Smit quizzed Mabuza about Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso's recent appearance before parliament’s standing committee on public accounts where she exonerated the utility and blamed its woes on the ANC.

Smit said: “Both the Zondo commission chair Raymond Zondo and Eskom chair Busisiwe Mavuso squarely laid the mess at Medupi and Kusile power stations at the feet of the ANC.

“Will you acknowledge that the ANC must take responsibility and will you acknowledge that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment is directly the reason that poor workmanship was allowed to take place at Medupi and Kusile power stations?”

EFF member Mmabatho Mokause asked Mabuza the same question, to which the deputy president said: “From where I am standing I can only acknowledge responsibility of the ANC government in the running of this power utility Eskom but, at every point in the life of Eskom, there has been a CEO, directors responsible for the day-to-day running of this power utility.

“There has been a board that was responsible. Up until now we are not told what the responsibility was of those structures for this crisis that we are facing today.”

He went on to say, “what I see in Eskom is the lack of maintenance of these power stations, the cost overrun of the two new builds [Medupi and Kusile] and there are design problems which are supposed to be the responsibility of engineers working at Eskom as well as the CEO at that time to ensure that we avoid these unnecessary costs and defects.”

Mabuza said he had not seen any interference by the minister responsible at Eskom.

“The interference that is spoken about can be debated ... It’s pointless to point fingers at each other and leave the challenges.”

Giving an update on progress made in correcting the design defects at Medupi and Kusile power stations, Mabuza conceded that the two had not achieved the desired levels of performance and reliability.

This he said, was due to a combination of operations and plant design and maintenance inefficiencies. To correct this, Mabuza said, the political task team for Eskom conducted an oversight visit to the power stations where they told Eskom management that the defects identified must be corrected expeditiously to avoid further project delays and cost escalations.

“Eskom is making progress in developing and implementing effective technical solutions to the major plant defects at both Medupi and Kusile in line with the plant defect correction plans.”

As part of implementing this plan, Mabuza said, a major modification at all units in Medupi resulted in a substantial improvement in the availability and reliability of the commissioned units at that power station.

“These units are now consistently achieving the designed output with the exception of unit 4 which suffered a generation failure resulting in a prolonged outage.”

Mabuza said there are long-term modifications to the milling plant that will still need to be carried out when maintenance outages are scheduled.

Similarly at Kusile, units 1, 2 and 3 were on the planned outages list for design defect correction.

“The time frame for the completion for the boiler plant defect solution is October 2023 and the corrections to the milling plant will be completed after December 2027.”

This will depend on the outage availability of units, said Mabuza, adding that all defects are dealt with in accordance with contractual conditions.

“Liable contractors are being held accountable and Eskom has reached an agreement with boiler contractors in terms of which boiler correction costs will initially be split on a 50% share basis between Eskom and the contractor at both Medupi and Kusile.”

He said Eskom’s legal team is redrafting the contracts to recover costs from liable contractors.

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