Deputy President David Mabuza makes a point

THEBE MABANGA

ESKOM deserves the support of government, business and communities to navigate its governance, technical and financial challenges and help drive the country’s growth.

This is according to Deputy President David Mabuza, who responded to questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.

“Government has taken a view that Eskom must be supported to implement a comprehensive turnaround programme, which will ensure that the utility develops and enhances its requisite institutional capabilities to meet the country’s energy needs,” Mabuza said in his oral reply.  

“Eskom is central to the country’s plans of re-igniting the economy in the context of the prevailing negative impact of COVID-19,” said Mabuza, who has rarely spoken since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Mabuza expressed confidence in the newly appointed board, chaired by Professor Malekgapuru Makgoba and CEO Andre de Ruyter, whose appointment was announced in November last year and took up the position in January this year.

“While the road ahead is still long, and challenges we face as a nation may be daunting, we are confident that Eskom is heading in the right direction,” Mabuza said.

“Under the leadership of the new CEO, the re-organisation of Eskom along the lines of a new distinct yet complimentary business and operating model has begun, with clear completion timelines,” Mabuza said of the reconfiguration of Eskom into a generation, transmission, and distribution businesses.

At a recent appearance in front of the portfolio committee of public enterprises, De Ruyter said the creation of the separate and the appointed of MDs for each is underway and will be completed between December this year and March next year in line with the Eskom Roadmap launched in October last year by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. 

De Ruyter noted that the transmission division will be created and legally separated by the end of next year, the other two divisions will have been created by 2022 with no specified dates for legal separation.

Mabuza also noted that Eskom board and management was committed to tackling wastage and corruption.

“To avoid resource leakages, wastages and corruption, the leadership of Eskom has focused sharply on strengthening governance systems and internal controls,” Mabuza said.

“A number of investigations have been undertaken to ensure that all those involved in fraud and corruption are brought to book.”

Eskom recently reported an incident in which a supplier was overpaid by R 5 billion.  

Mabuza said part of government’s commitment to supporting Eskom is to instruct provincial department and local government to pay Eskom its outstanding debt.

“The current municipal arrear debt remains very high, and has reached R28bn as at 31 March 2020, which is an increase of R8.2bn over the past 12 months,” said Mabuza.

In a separate oral reply, Mabuza noted that social partners at the National Economic and Development Labour Council (Nedlac) have agreed on a framework to pay Eskom’s outstanding debt by households, businesses and government entities and departments.

“To this end, Social Partners have developed a Framework Agreement for a Social Compact on Supporting Eskom for Inclusive Economic Growth, supported by an implementation plan which provides practical expression to the Social Compact.”

Mabuza said the draft Social Compact will be presented to the Presidential Working Committee of the Jobs Summit in early July for final approval.

Mabuza also expressed confidence that Eskom will keep the lights on during winter.

“While the system remains under pressure, we are confident that Eskom has put in place necessary measures to keep the lights on.”

De Ruyter told parliament that Eskom used the lockdown to undertake “opportunistic” maintenance during the early part of the lockdown and will from July focus on “reliability” maintenance to resolve loadshedding permanently by August next year.

Eskom also expects to complete the Medupi and Kusile Power Stations this year and in 2023, respectively.

In a separate reply, Mabuza appraised parliament on the investigation into Chief Operations Officer Jan Oberholzer.

In April, Eskom concluded and investigation into allegations of corruption, dishonesty, conflict of interest and abuse of power against Oberholzer and cleared him of wrongdoing.

The investigation related to his disclosure of shareholding in construction company Stefanutti Stocks as well as conduct in relation to a specific contract.

“Notwithstanding the fact that we have no basis to doubt the fairness, and the integrity of the investigation process as conducted against the COO, we call on the board to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in full. We find comfort in the commitment expressed by the CEO that they will act should new evidence arise,” said Mabuza.

(Compiled by Inside Politics staff)

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