President Cyril Ramaphosa used the ANC’s January 8th Statement to allay fears of an Eskom collapse.
Ramaphosa told ANC supporters at the party’s anniversary festivities in Kimberley in the Northern Cape that Eskom was “too big to fail” and that the utility will be supported.
This comes a day after Eskom board chairperson Jabu Mabuza resigned from his position, citing the power company’s inability to keep its promise of keeping the lights on.
Last year, Ramaphosa reassured South Africans that there would be no planned load-shedding until at least January 15 2020.
But this week, Eskom was forced to conduct unscheduled power cuts and implement stage two load-shedding.
“Eskom is the largest company in our country. It is too big to fail. And we won’t allow it to fail. Instead, we will rebuild it and support it,” Ramaphosa told crowds to a muted response.
Ramaphosa offered reasons for Eskom’s ongoing decline, assuring South Africans that work is being done to ensure a stable power supply.
“Eskom’s management and the board must ensure that they maintain their power stations. Many of them are old. The news ones we built still have design challenges. And this is why they keep on tripping, leading to load-shedding,” Ramaphosa said.
Although Ramaphosa did not mention Mabuza or any Eskom official by name, it was ANC alliance partner, trade-union federation Cosatu, that called on the utility’s entire board to follow Mabuza out the door.
“Cosatu since August has called for the entire board of Eskom to step down. We are saying to the rest of the board: do the honourable thing and follow suit,” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi during a message of support delivered at the former liberation movement’s anniversary celebrations.
Ramaphosa did not respond directly but again stressed that the utility was not up for sale, following allegations by trade unions, including Cosatu, that restructuring plans are akin to privatising the state-owned company.
“Those who think we want to privatise Eskom, I want to say to you we are not going to privatise. We are going to strengthen Eskom so that it can deliver energy as it should,” Ramaphosa said.
“This has a negative impact on our economy and the lives of our people. Therefore, we are urging the [Eskom] management [to resolve issues at the utility]. We will support them and strengthen them to move with speed to restore and maintain those power stations.”
Ramaphosa said he has appointed Deputy President David Mabuza to head up the war room to restore Eskom.
This is a position that Ramaphosa himself held when he was the deputy president in former president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
This past week ANC leaders have crisscrossed the Northern Cape, the largest province in terms of size, though the smallest in terms of population.
From Calvinia to Keimoes, Namaqualand to the Karoo, the party’s senior leadership have made their presence felt.
In the 2019 provincial elections, the ANC won comfortably here, with 57% of the vote.
But that doesn’t mean the governing party is trusted, even among its own voters and supporters.
In 2018, the Shutdown Kimberley campaign in the township of Galeshewe forced former Sol Plaatje municipalitymayor Mangaliso Matika to resign over complaints of poor service delivery.
Service delivery protests are a regular occurrence in the province.
And, with the Northern Cape afflicted by an ongoing devastating drought, ANC leaders were peppered with complaints by residents.
“You told us about the lack of jobs. You told us about the devastating droughts. The streets that are not maintained, the taps that don’t have running water and the drains that do not work. But you told us you have confidence the ANC will resolve the problems that you face,” Ramaphosa said.
Reading the January 8th statement on behalf of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC), the president said plans are under way to strengthen service delivery at local government level.
This could be seen as the party’s first steps at placating voters ahead of the 2021 municipal elections.
“We have started the process of effecting performance evaluation at local government level … Where there is poor or no performance there will be consequences. We will ensure that we will root out bad performance. Those who don’t perform their duties will be dealt with and there will be performance management,” Ramaphosa said.
The ANC president also assured the country that the party is turning the tide against corruption in government.
“We must restore the integrity and the capability of the state, which has faced a number of challenges.Corruption at all levels of government will stop. And the stealing of public resources and the money that should go to serve the poor will be dealt with quite severely.”
He said the ANC would also review the process of how it selects public representatives as candidates in elections.
“During this year, we will and must renew the ANC as the most effective force for social change, by rebuilding branches as centres for community development and rolling out a mass political education campaign … We will prepare for a decisive local government mandate, by strengthening local government, reviewing the selection of local government candidates and meeting with communities [about] their needs and concerns.”
But Ramaphosa also called on citizens to do their bit by paying their municipal bills for services rendered.
In September 2019 Eskom told Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts that municipal debt increases by R1-billion a month.
At the time of that meeting, municipalities owed Eskom about R26-billion in outstanding payments.
“[Communities] must pay for the services that are delivered by our government entities,” Ramaphosa urged.
“We’ve got to restore the culture of payment so that they can strengthen the state and ensure that the state has enough resources to continue serving our people,” he said.