MAKE OR BREAK: Cyril Ramaphosa faces crisis
We’ve only just begun to recover from Day Zero, now we’re bracing for another Day Zero, with Eskom.

For real.

Mense, this load shedding problem is much more serious than just the inconvenience of not having the lights and appliances on twice a day.

Or train delays and traffic jams caused by traffic lights being out of order.

These are only the symptoms of a major national crisis.

According to reports, at the current rate, Eskom will have to shut down on 1 April.

No jokes, the electricity company is in so much trouble, it’s almost catastrophic.

Briefing the public enterprise portfolio committee this week, Acting Director General Thuto Shomang said Eskom is technically insolvent and if things carry on like this, it will cease to exist in a matter of weeks.

Here’s how bad it is:

  • Eskom’s current debt stands at R435 billion, which represents 15% of the national debt.
  • Municipal debt - the biggest culprit being Soweto - totalling R28 billion, and is growing at R1 billion a month.
  • The number of employees increased from 32 000 in 2007 to 48 000 in 2018 with associated costs growing from R9.5 billion to R29.5 billion.
  • Eskom is struggling to maintain operational sustainability with its ageing generation fleet, which on average is about 37 years old.
  • Poor quality of maintenance due to poor workmanship and at least 40% of plant breakdowns being due to human error.
  • The costs for the Medupi and Kusile plants have escalated to over R300 billion, due to poor planning and engineering designs, dodgy procurement practices and corruption.
  • Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, says engineers have left Eskom for the Philippines and Indonesia because they couldn’t take it anymore.

It’s a crisis and gatvol South Africans have rightly slammed government for allowing this to happen.

After all, it’s a state-owned enterprise.

POWER OUT: Load shedding

But rather than take responsibility, the ruling party dropped a bombshell by claiming Eskom bosses are trying to sabotage Cyril Ramaphosa’s government.

ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa alleged the sudden implementation of Stage 4 load shedding was a reaction to the president’s announcement last week that Eskom would be unbundled.

“The coincidence is suspicious. This comes a few days after the president made very bold statements during the State of the Nation address about growing the economy and boosting investment,” he said.

Speaking of sabotage, the unions have warned that should Ramaphosa privatise Eskom, there will be war.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said: “ANC government should not transfer its responsibility to generate electricity to the private sector because if capitalists produce electricity, this country would come to a standstill, and investors would run away. The private sector is engineering to remove the ANC from power.”

And Nehawu called on the president to fire Gordhan and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.

So it looks like the government has not only made a hash of managing Eskom but can’t agree with its alliance partners Cosatu either. Eish...

Business obviously has a very different view from the workers and would prefer the private sector to run Eskom.

On Thursday, the president announced that a special cabinet task team has been established to deal with the crisis and would provide him with reports daily on the state of the power grid and "what actions need to be taken to ensure energy supply".

Gordhan cracked the whip, saying: “Any person caught in corruption, in any situation and any sphere of government should be in orange uniform.”

But is this just more talk no action from the government?

The DA seems to think so.

Just three months away from the elections, they declared: “It is clear that the failing ANC cannot keep the lights on and it is clear that Ramaphosa cannot keep the lights on. It’s time to take the ANC’s power to put in back in the hands of our residents.”

A bold statement and you know what? They have a point.

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