Most South Africans have access to stable electricity supply. But with the current circumstances at Eskom, questions are being raised concerning the continuity of that. The crisis at Eskom, which provides 90% of South Africa’s electricity, has had negative effects for the wider economy, but President Ramapahosa’s plan to “unbundle” the power giant have met a mixed response. Report by Chris Matthews
Troubles facing Eskom, South Africa’s debt ridden state-run utility provider, hit customers hard again in February. South Africans were disconnected and deprived of electricity once more as the besieged national operator implemented a Stage 3 round of “loadshedding” in attempts to stave off an energy shutdown.
The near collapse of the energy giant, which provides 90% of South Africa’s electricity but is straddled with R419m ($29.7m) debt, has led to shaky economic confidence, wary investors and growing fissures between government and an Eskom workforce fearful of privatisation.
Corruption claims have long stalked the organisation. A November 2018 government report said Eskom “failed dismally” in complying with regulations, that various members of the board had had conflicts of interest and that there had been “abuse of public resources” in its procurements processes. Its losses are forecast to hit R20bn for 2018/19, according to Eskom CFO Calib Cassim.
The re-emergence of electricity blackouts in recent weeks stems partly from the failure of what public enterprise minister Pravin Gordhan called in February two “badly designed and badly constructed” Eskom projects.
Light-hearted humour is being expressed on social media. “And just like that, power just went off,” one exasperated Twitter user mused. Another quipped: “I heard that stage 5 of #loadshedding they come into your house and blow out your candles.” Indeed for customers and the South African economy one thing is clear, any agreeable Eskom recovery has a long way to go yet.