Conflicting messages on Eskom’s inability to deliver power this week raises major concerns about government’s ability to manage this very serious problem effectively.
Eskom imposed rolling blackouts for the first time since 2008, forcing business to scale back power usage. This will have a major impact on our economy and will without doubt lead to job losses.
It is increasingly clear that government is itself unsure as to what is going on.
Ahead of the budget speech, Finance Minister, Pravin Gordhan, conceded that delays in the construction of the new Medupi power plant have hampered South Africa’s economic growth. He noted that the “…delays at Medupi are unfortunate…if we had those supplies earlier the economy might have grown a little bit better and might have created a bit more certainty in our environment…”
However, suddenly suffering from a fit of denialism, Mr Gordhan yesterday attempted to down play the seriousness of Eskom’s failures as an inconvenient “kick in the ankle.”
Eskom chairman Zola Tsotsi and CEO Brian Dames also seem confused over the severity of power supply problems.
Mr Tsotsi insists there is no power crisis: “No, we don’t have an energy crisis in South Africa… There is no crisis here. We in South Africa are the only people that seem to always be inventing a crisis where none exists,” said Mr Tsotsi on the sidelines of an Eskom media briefing held last Friday.
Outgoing CEO, Mr Dames, however contradicted his colleague, admitted that the supply situation was a crisis and that it would continue until more generating capacity was added.
According to media reports from earlier today, Minister of Public Enterprises, Malusi Gigababa said he is confident that the leadership of Eskom is doing all it can to ensure that what happened last week is not repeated.
But,at the same time, this was contradicted by Mr Dames saying, “The supply issues will be a problem for the next few months unless we have aggressive supply interventions of at least 3000 megawatts. “
The conflicting messages on Eskom’s energy crisis are an indication of government’s uncoordinated and ineffective approach towards resolving the crisis.