CAPE TOWN – Parliament has heard that political interference is holding the Eskom board back from acting on decisions that could prevent the power utility’s collapse and the country’s economy with it.
Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso on Tuesday said the board was repeatedly stymied by political considerations from taking steps that would help drag Eskom out of the red.
In a fiery outburst, Mavuso vented her frustration with government instructions that overturned board decisions, saying if it was up to the board, Eskom would load shed for the next eight months so that long-neglected maintenance could be carried out on ageing power stations.
The Eskom board was in Cape Town late on Tuesday to brief Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations.
Mavuso told the committee Eskom was too big a problem for the board alone to be cast as its saviour and an “honest conversation” was needed.
“This is an issue that affects 57 million South Africans. Eskom at the moment is a sovereign risk and its collapse means the collapse of the South African economy. If we were given the latitude to actually make decisions without political interference as this board, I’ll tell you what we’ll do. We’d actually go to South Africans and say we need to load shed at least for the next eight months – and I’m saying that understanding that load shedding for one day costs the economy R2 billion – but that would be the honest conversation. Because you are sitting with units that are nearing 50 years old.”
Mavuso said the board found itself between a rock and a hard place.
“So, if you’re going to be given an instruction to say keep lights on at all costs because we are nearing elections, it’s actually problematic. I wish we could actually be given the latitude as this board to do what we’re supposed to do.”
She said Eskom needed strategic equity partners because its problems were too great for the fiscus to manage. She also said unions couldn’t continue “to sit like principals with a red pen” thinking they have no role to play.
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