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SA facing two years of blackouts: minister

| Economic factors

Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown says that the country is facing the prospect of load shedding for the next two years.

It comes after Eskom announced that it will implement Stage 2 load shedding for a second consecutive day on Thursday (26 March).

Eskom board chairman Zola Tsots, who is reportedly facing the chop, reiterated on Wednesday, that Eskom was not in a crisis.

The company is currently without it’s chief executive, Tshediso Matona, who along with three other executives, including the financial director, were suspended a week after they had initiated an audit into Eskom’s tender processes, Business Day reported.

Eskom meanwhile confirmed that it had received a notice from Matona that he would challenge his suspension in the Labour Court.

Power cuts implemented by Eskom costs South Africa’s economy between $1.7 billion (R20 billion) and $6.8 billion (R80.1 billion) a month.

The country’s inconsistent electricity supply is expected to cost the country around 0.3% of gross domestic product (GDP) growth, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) warned earlier this month.

And while first unit of the Medupi coal-fired power station finally begun adding electricity to the national power grid earlier this month, there is a long wait ahead before the next unit is ready to follow.

Things are less certain for Kusile following a contract cancellation and renewed strikes. Both Medupi and Kusile are vital to Eskom to alleviate the strain on the grid.

The Minister of Public Enterprises, Ms Lynne Brown, appeared before the portfolio committee on public enterprises on Thursday to brief the Committee on the challenges that state-owned companies are faced with.

Brown provided an overview on state-owned enterprises such as Alexkor, Denel, Safrol, SAA, SAX, Transnet and Eskom. At the centre of her presentation however, were the recent developments at the power utility Eskom.

Brown told the committee: “For the next coming two years the country will be facing load shedding”.

Brown said she was hamstrung by the relevant legislation and the shareholder compact that stated there should be no political, operational and managerial interference. She added that after a Cabinet Lekgotla, the department was then mandated to develop an overarching legislation to run-state owned companies.

Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Public Enterprises, Ms Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba, said the Committee was concerned that Eskom as a strategic asset was experiencing serious problems.

“There seems to be no stability at a board level within Eskom you need to assist in stabilising the leadership challenges that are experienced,” said Letsatsi-Duba.

“The current issues that are emanating from the power utility are raising questions that the government is unable find a solution. We need to engage and interact further with the department so that we come up with recommendations that will assist Eskom,” Letsatsi-Duba added.

The committee said the establishment of the war room, led by deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was to deal with the energy crisis facing the country.

President Jacob Zuma recently said that said of the country’s power woes: “We have a good plan. In the State of the Nation Address, I announced our short, medium and long term response.”

“Our response involves focusing on improving the maintenance of Eskom power stations in order to improve the generation capacity and secondly to finalise our long term energy security master plan,” Zuma said.

In the long term, government is looking to develop a sustainable energy mix which includes electricity, liquid fuels, coal, wind, hydro, nuclear, solar and gas.

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