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Pravin Gordhan concedes Eskom is facing massive problems

During the Sona debate, Minister Pravin Gordhan also admitted to design and construction flaws at Eskom’s newest power plants Kusile and Medupi.

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan briefs the media on 23 July 2018. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan has conceded that Eskom is facing massive structural, operational and financial problems.

During the debate on the State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Tuesday afternoon, Gordhan also admitted to design and construction flaws at Eskom’s newest power plants Kusile and Medupi.

• 6 Eskom units back online as Gordhan demands end to load shedding

The minister says following meetings with Eskom’s board and management, it’s been decided to call in external professionals to restore the power utility to full functionality.

South Africans are battling load shedding for a third day in a row as Eskom battles to get on top of its maintenance problems.

WATCH: Small businesses say Eskom’s load shedding could cripple them

Gordhan says Eskom needs to enter into a new phase of doing business that involves splitting the company into three entities.

Earlier in the debate, the Economic Freedom Fighters said it would mobilise workers to rail against any plans to privatise the company, but Gordhan says there are no such plans.

“In the Sona last week, the president did not talk anything about privatisation.”

Gordhan says more unplanned power outages to deal with maintenance problems can be expected in the coming weeks.

“We are going to bring in external power stations engineers, get an independent audit on exactly what's going on so that we put Eskom back on track and give South Africans the assurance that we have an entity that is able to give us the energy security we require.”

He says Eskom is well on its way to overcoming the diversions caused by state capture.

BAD DECISION-MAKING AT KUSILE, MEDUPI DELAYS

Gordhan says the new Kusile and Medupi power stations are not performing as a result of wrong choices and designs.

“The public is interest in knowing what is the state as far as Eskom is concerned. Eskom is currently facing massive problems of a structural, operational and financial nature.”

The minister told MPs that government is calling on energy company Enel to provide external technical assistance in order to address the operational problems at Eskom.

He says the move to unbundle the utility has nothing to do with privatisation and is aimed at keeping the lights on.

“What we said very clearly is that security of energy supply is an absolute imperative. Eskom is in crisis and the risks it poses to South Africa are great [and] it could severely damage our economy. We need to minimise any adverse economic costs to the consumer and taxpayer.”

Government’s handling of the Eskom crisis, along with calls to arrest those responsible for corruption, have been two of the main points of criticism during Tuesday’s debate of Ramaphosa’s Sona.

With the country experiencing load shedding for a third consecutive day, opposition parties say government is failing the people of South Africa.

WATCH: Debate on Sona 2019

The Democratic Alliance’s Natasha Mazzone made a recommendation for those found guilty of state capture.

“Mr president, let me tell you without a doubt what the average South African will not mind their tax being spend on, it is a new wing at Pretoria’s C-Max prison [Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Centre] dedicated to those who try to steal our country.”

The United Democratic Movement’s Bantu Holomisa claimed that the African National Congress’ investment arm is responsible for the crises at the Medupi and Kusile power stations.

“Eskom comes up with a new excuse from the non-diesel and coal. Now we are told that the project of Hitachi and Chancellor House of Medupi and Kusile which they built are the reasons for this load shedding.”

At the same time, Moody’s says South Africa’s electricity system is under extreme pressure. The ratings agency is warning the reserve margin is likely to remain tight up until mid-2020.

Check your area's load shedding schedule here.
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View a load shedding data map on Cape Town here.

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