As parts of the country were once again plunged into darkness on Wednesday, the national treasury says that it is concerned about the challenges that are faced by the country’s ailing power utility, Eskom.
Eskom implemented stage two load-shedding on Wednesday and confirmed the continuation of the power cuts for the upcoming days due to a “shortage of capacity”. The blackouts comes a month after the embattled power utility assured the country that it had no plans to initiate load-shedding anytime soon.
“Most of our power stations are in need of maintenance to improve reliability… we do our best to strike the right balance between plant maintenance and keeping the lights on,” said Eskom chairperson and acting chief executive, Jabu Mabuza said in a statement.
Treasury’s director general, Dondo Mogajane told the Mail & Guardian that it is “worrying” that Eskom has had to implement load-shedding.
“The national treasury is worried about the load-shedding. It tells you that the urgency of fixing Eskom is there. We have to fix it,” he said.
Mogajane made these remarks on the sidelines of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s third economic colloquium, on Thursday in Pretoria. The colloquium was attended by government officials, academics and economists as well as some members of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s economic advisory council who were appointed last month.
Mogajane said although government is in the process of considering Eskom’s Integrated Resource Program (IRP), separate discussions on how to fix the embattled power utility would not be a part of deliberations at the colloquium. The IRP is aimed at modeling a new optimal mix of energy resources that would lessen the country’s reliance on coal supplied energy.
Mboweni said the colloquium will discuss an updated version of the treasury’s economic policy document titled “Towards a growth agenda for the South African economy” which was released for public comment in August. At least 748 comments have been received by treasury and it expects more comments will be received ahead of the medium-term budget policy statement (MTBPS) that will be presented later this month.
The finance minister said he guided treasury officials who are dealing with the public comments on the economic policy document to consider comments that are “internally consistent” with the department’s mandate and policy framework. Comments that are not consistent with the department’s mandate “we should just appreciate the contribution”.
“If somebody says in order to get the economy going we have to abandon inflation targeting, that is internally inconsistent with what we [treasury] are trying to do,” Mboweni said.
He added that the policy that would be implemented would need “political buy in” in order to be successful. “If you think you can implement policy without political buy in then you are wasting your time because after all because policy is politics.”
Mboweni said that the treasury is at the tail end of finalising the document that will guide policy proposals on how to improve the country’s economy which narrowly dodged a recession in the second quarter of this year with the gross domestic product growth of 3,1% after a contraction in the first quarter.
The date for when the MTBPS will be presented is also likely to be presented on October 29 instead of a day earlier as initially planned. Mboweni said that this provision was made in order to allow Ramaphosa to be present in Parliament when it is presented because of conflicting schedules.