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Worse blackouts to come; call for Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter’s head

Former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe said worse load shedding was coming.

Former Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe said worse load shedding was coming.

Published Nov 10, 2021

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DURBAN - FORMER Eskom chief executive Brian Molefe has warned the country to brace itself for stage 6 load shedding before the end of the week.

Molefe blasted the power utility’s current management for plunging the country into darkness, saying their incompetence had brought Eskom to its present position.

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Molefe and energy experts were part of a panel on the SABC’s news show The Watchdog on Monday night.

He said the problem at the power utility no longer concerned its past financial issues but was due to the management who “did not know what they were doing”. Molefe said that during his time at Eskom, he managed to increase energy availability to 80% but it was now at around 60%. He felt the solution to the current crisis was to increase energy availability to at least 70%.

He also challenged the management to explain to the nation how the power failure that affected Zambia was linked to the stage 4 load shedding in South Africa, as had been claimed.

Another former Eskom chief executive, Matshela Koko, warned that what the country was experiencing now was nothing compared to what would happen in February when the Koeberg plant would be switched off during the replacement of a generator. Koko told sister paper the Cape Times that worse load shedding was coming.

Eskom’s announcement, this week, of stage 4 load shedding until Friday has prompted fresh calls for heads to roll at Eskom. On Tuesday, Eskom announced that there would be stage 3 load shedding from this morning.

People and various organisations have called for Eskom chief executive Andre de Ruyter’s head, saying he should be removed with immediate effect because he had failed to turn Eskom around as he had promised when he joined in 2019. De Ruyter had said it would take 18 months to fix problems and end load shedding but experts said instead of seeing an end to the problems the situation was getting worse.

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Transform RSA leader Adil Nchabeleng, who was part of the SABC show, said besides all the causes of load shedding that had been mentioned, he suspected there was deliberate sabotage because Eskom had opted to use foreign engineers and consultants, leaving out local black engineers.

Democracy in Action called for the removal of the Eskom board, the chief operating officer, De Ruyter and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Energy expert Chris Yelland, who was also part of the panel and defended Eskom’s management and De Ruyter, said it was wrong to blame De Ruyter for the problems he found at Eskom.

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He said Eskom’s problems started more than a decade ago and should have been fixed by the government as shareholder. Yelland added that Eskom was in a financial crisis, which was beyond the management’s control, and that the government needed to take responsibility.

Various energy experts said while the problems at Eskom were being attended to, the public should expect more load shedding because there were no power-generation reserves which meant Eskom must “switch off” while fixing tripped and ageing plants.

President Cyril Ramaphosa also defended Eskom’s management, dismissing calls for them to be removed.

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Speaking after the ANC “thank you” rally in Soweto where the party thanked its volunteers and supporters for the work they had done during the elections, he said firing people would not help. He said Eskom’s problem was a complex issue which could not be solved by changing personnel.

Business organisations and workers’ unions dismissed this explanation and renewed their call for heads to roll at Eskom. The National Union of Mineworkers (Num) called on the Eskom board and the executive under De Ruyter to resign. The union said De Ruyter had “sold South Africans a dead cat”.

“He promised to resolve the problem of load shedding in 18 months but failed to meet the set target. The electricity situation in this country has reached a crisis level. We need the government to provide leadership by declaring this situation a national crisis.

“Workers are losing their jobs and income,” William Mabapa, Num acting general secretary, said.

The Black Business Council also lashed out at De Ruyter, calling for him and the board to resign immediately. The council said it was “overly optimistic” when De Ruyter was appointed and had congratulated him, but two years later it had since realised that the country had nothing to show for it but a higher number of blackouts.

In response to the calls for the board, chief executive and chief operating officer to be fired, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said: “The board appoints the management team, and the board in turn gets appointed by the minister responsible. For as long as this management team enjoys the confidence of the board, it has a job to do and will continue to do so.”

He declined to speak on Molefe’s comments.

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