Editorial: Eskom probe powerless

There is an excellent case to be made for a forensic inquiry that cuts through the political murk and corporate evasions at crisis-plagued Eskom. The public would like straight answers to many questions. Why, for example, are our power stations so unstable that South Africa suffers from a constant 30% generating shortfall? Why the recurring deadline and budget overruns on major build projects, including the Medupi and Kusile power stations, now years behind schedule? Why does Eskom pay a king’s ransom for coal and diesel?

Top management, constantly in flux, seems able only to react, with little evidence of planning or prognostic troubleshooting. And looming over all this is the utility’s growing dependence on government bailouts.

So why does last week’s announcement of an executive purge and forensic inquiry inspire no confidence? The inquiry, which will consider technical, commercial and financial aspects of Eskom’s business, has just three months to diagnose the complex ills of the crippled giant and lay the foundation for a turnaround. It is hard to believe that the sidelining of Tshediso Matona, chief executive for just six months, and other newly promoted executives can improve matters.

Of even greater concern is the fact that members of the board subcommittee running the process seem either compromised or lack the skills and background needed. The main qualification of the co-ordinator, Nick Linnell, seems to be that he advised SAA boss Dudu Myeni, a close ally of President Jacob Zuma, when she headed a water authority in KwaZulu-Natal. Subcommittee member and new acting chief executive Zethembe Khoza most recently ran a low-profile construction and plumbing business.

Driving the initiative is Zola Tsotsi, board chair since 2011 and the ultimate survivor, though it is on his watch that the utility has unravelled. His motive, one fears, will be to ensure that the inquiry makes no findings damaging to him.


At stake may be lucrative coal, diesel and IT contracts, as well as major new projects such as the proposed Ibhubesi gas deal. On this reading, the purpose is to assure ordinary South Africans (who go to the polls next year) that the power crisis is being decisively tackled while, however, leaving one faction intact and consolidating its power and access to patronage.

Eskom’s woes are, in no small measure, the result of political interference over many years. It is precisely this kind of manipulation that the inquiry should probe.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Manage urban transformation to avoid infrastructure blockages

It is possible to urbanise without congestion and the attendant ills through emphasis on better institutions, writes Eddie Rakabe

Eskom cancels dodgy R100m tender linked to Mabuza’s niece

An internal investigation revealed ‘irregularities’ in the process of awarding the contract

Solar stuck where sun don’t shine: State spends R289m to store solar water heaters

The national solar water heater programme is set to take off once again this year, but meanwhile the government is spending millions on storing heaters that have yet to be installed

Another reason why Eskom is the bull in the fiscal china shop

Although mismanagement and corruption play a role in the financial state of affairs at municipalities, it is not the only reason they are failing

Eskom must lead the energy shift

Any plans to change from coal-fired power to renewable and affordable electricity must include turning the power utility into a true public entity

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments
Advertising

Vaccine trial results due in December

If successful, it will then have to be manufactured and distributed

White men still rule and earn more

Women and black people occupy only a few seats at the JSE table, the latest PwC report has found

The PPE scandal that the Treasury hasn’t touched

Many government officials have been talking tough about dealing with rampant corruption in PPE procurement but the majority won't even release names of who has benefited from the R10-billion spend

ANC still at odds over how to tackle leaders facing...

The ANC’s top six has been mandated to work closely with its integrity committee to tackle claims of corruption against senior party members
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday