‘Power outages cost the economy up to R89bn every month’

MEC Lynne Brown briefed Parliament's Portfolio Committee on the happenings at the power utility.

FILE: Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

CAPE TOWN - Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown on Wednesday told Parliament that power outages cost the economy up to R89 billion every month.

She also said she was concerned about management at the parastatal.

MPs have raised concerns about alleged power struggles at the utility, but Brown insisted there were no power struggles within the Eskom board amid reports of infighting.

Brown said she'd heard rumours that the power utility's board wanted to remove Eskom Chairman Zola Tsotsi but said if the rumours were true, she couldn't interfere as the process would be between the board and Tsotsi.

Brown also allayed fears that the board wasn't united.

"The board could be united in wanting to get the chair out, or the CFO, or somebody else out. It's largely united; it's too young for the board to be functionalised yet. And it's not functionalised, and that's my sense of the board from where I'm sitting."

The board of Eskom will vote on Wednesday afternoon, on whether to remove Tsotsi, but the minister insisted there were no internal power struggles.

'OPPORTUNITIES WILL EMERGE FROM ESKOM'S CRISIS'

While Eskom's top executives battle it out to retain their positions, the utility's former chief executive Jacob Maroga said he believed major opportunities would emerge from the current crisis.

On Tuesday, Maroga addressed the 19th Annual Power and Electricity Africa Conference in Johannesburg.

On Wednesday, a vote of no confidence would reportedly be decided against Tsotsi, while suspended CEO Tshediso Matona contested his removal from office in the Labour Court.

Maroga believed an overhaul of Eskom's operating structure was needed.

"Normally, sometimes out of a crisis emerge many opportunities. It's not all doom and gloom, it's actually rethinking our energy system, strategy, future and governance. So it may be a face of reflection and restrategising for South Africa."

NUM CALLS FOR TSOTSI TO STEP DOWN

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Monday called on Tsotsi to do what it said was " the right thing" and step down.

The NUM objected his appointment to the utility's board from the beginning and has urged Brown to take action against him if he refuses to step aside.

The union's Frans Baleni said now was not the time to play games.

"For us it's not about what the board says. We have said from the beginning after the announcement that he had been reappointed that it was a wrong appointment. How can a non-executive chairperson commit to a supplier that Eskom will pay a supplier when he does not have such executive authority?"

Baleni said it wasn't negotiable and that Tsotsi had to step down.

"It is very clear there is unethical conduct from the chairperson or he clearly does not understand good governance where he can actually operate as an executive chairperson, committing Eskom to certain liabilities."

Both Eskom and Brown are refusing at this stage to confirm or deny whether Tsotsi is faced with removal.