Ex-CEOs reach out to troubled Eskom — Gordhan tells the ANC

This week's descent into stage 6 load-shedding emphasises how badly SA needs greater private sector involvement in generating and distributing electricity.
This week's descent into stage 6 load-shedding emphasises how badly SA needs greater private sector involvement in generating and distributing electricity.

Former Eskom CEOs have reached out to the power utility offering to help as SA faces another week of rolling blackouts.

Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan told the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) meeting on Monday the former CEOs were likely to bring former power station managers who have much-needed experience to the company which faces, among its many challenges, a skills shortage.

He did not name the ex-CEOs, saying only it was the “non-problematic ones”. 

“Previous CEOs, some of them, the non-problematic ones, have also made phone calls to offer assistance in the form of trying to rally previous power station managers who have 20 and 30 years behind them and we will hear in the next 24 hours what we have come up with,” he said.

It is unlikely he was talking about the company's recent CEOs as he has consistently implied they were involved in state capture efforts.

Gordhan was briefing the NEC about the state of Eskom amid the rolling blackouts which reached stage 6 last week.

Last week NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane told TimesLIVE the party was in the dark about the causes of the latest round of load-shedding. She said though the ANC was often accused of cadre deployment, the cadres it deployed did not even tell its leadership the country was heading for stage 6 load-shedding.

On Monday, Gordhan sought to assure the meeting that sooner rather than later the energy situation would improve and the stage 6 blackouts were likely to be reduced to stage 2 by the end of the week.

Gordhan spoke of aged infrastructure which meant reduced energy availability, the serious impact of strikes, sabotage and critical vacancies at operational level at Eskom.

There were significant skills shortages in operational depth and experience and there was an active recruitment process to find former operators who might have left Eskom but also to restart training and upgrading programmes.

Efforts were also being made to see how the operational side of management could be strengthened, and Eskom needed a stronger focus and a stronger and more experienced hand in operations and in maintenance,

There was co-ordination by different departments and the presidency and efforts were being made to develop short term and medium term action plans.

Among the immediate interventions under consideration was giving priority to maintenance of power plants as improved availability of power was key.

Acquisition of skills and experienced mentors was another factor, and looking at private investment in new generation capacity.

This was not likely to yield immediate megawatts though there might be entities with spare capacity.

“At the moment some 250MW have been offered to Eskom in this particular regard.”

Empowering municipalities to procure electricity was another new pathway that had been opened and, according to the department of mineral resources and energy, so far only two municipalities — Cape Town and Stellenbosch — had applied for this facility.

Different areas of government had different “levers” that could be used to relieve the crisis. These included exemptions to the Public Finance Management Act or other regulatory requirements to speed up maintenance and acquisition of spare parts.

Referring to intimidation of staff by striking workers, Gordhan said there was “a dangerous and diabolical thing going on”, where some used Eskom and the electricity system as a political football instead of leaving it to maintain the economy and provide electricity for people.

“This situation has certainly triggered a new sense of urgency in response to clearly very angry South Africans and very upset South Africans.”

A new urgency was at play and there was a greater determination to overcome the mishaps of the past two weeks to ensure that plans were executed faster, particularly maintenance, “so that sooner rather than later we are able to see a situation where stage 6 at least reaches stage 2 and the plan is that will happen towards the end of this week”.  



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