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#LoadShedding: Italian engineers roped in, but will Eskom survive until April?

On Wednesday, Eskom revealed it is technically insolvent and will fail to exist at the current rate by April.

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

CAPE TOWN - Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan says he hopes Eskom will get to grips with the problems that have led to the latest round of load shedding within the next 10 days. But consumers can expect the blackouts to continue until April.

Appearing before Parliament's Public Enterprises Committee on Wednesday, Gordhan agreed the public deserved an apology, but mismanagement and corruption had to be taken into account for the problems the power utility is experiencing today.

Gordhan says he believed Eskom had gotten on top of its load shedding problems in December, but this latest incident at one of its power stations had come as a surprise.

Gordhan says President Cyril Ramaphosa will announce further steps on Eskom when he delivers the reply to the State of the Nation debate on Thursday.

The minister has told Parliament’s portfolio committee that government is concerned about the impact load shedding will have on attracting investment.

Last week, Ramaphosa announced the power utility is to be split into three separate entities to improve its operations and to contain costs. Gordhan says a sequence of problems at Eskom power stations has led to the current state of load shedding, and he can’t say for certain when the problems will be resolved.

At the same time, top engineers from Italian energy company Enel are on their way to South Africa to help sort out Eskom’s maintenance issues.

Gordhan says the power utility has suffered a brain drain due to instability or because experienced employees were pushed out.

"Government is very aware that apart from causing traffic jams and huge amounts of frustration in major cities, this is also a bad signal as far as investment in our economy is concerned."

INSOLVENT

On Wednesday, Eskom revealed it is technically insolvent and will fail to exist at the current rate by April.

The company's debt now stands at R420 billion, posing a significant risk to the economy.

Eskom is not making enough money to cover its operating and debt service costs.

Municipal debt continues to escalate and the wage bill has also grown threefold since 2007, now standing at almost R30 billion.

An aging fleet, ongoing coal shortages, lack of investment in mines have been cited as reasons for poor operational sustainability.

Acting director-general at the Department of Public Enterprises Thuto Shomang says cost overruns at Medupi and Kusile power stations are exacerbating the crisis.

He says that systemic corruption and state capture has comprised the credibility of the organisation.

Check your area's load shedding schedule here.

View a load shedding data map on Cape Town here.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)

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