/ 17 January 2023

‘You are sabotaging us ahead of 2024 elections,’ ANC tells Eskom

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

The ANC, in an act of blurring the lines between party and state, summoned Eskom’s top brass to a parliamentary caucus meeting and accused them of sabotaging the party ahead of next year’s general elections. 

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan also attended the meeting, which was held virtually on Monday evening. The ANC caucus summoned Gordhan and senior Eskom representatives amid growing anger against crippling power blackouts, where the country is plunged into about 12 hours of darkness a day. 

The summons to the meeting, according to an official document seen by the Mail & Guardian, was issued by ANC MP and the party’s chief whip, Pemmy Majodina, who demanded that Gordhan and Eskom present a “turnaround plan” to the caucus.  

In attendance as part of the state entity’s delegation was Eskom’s outgoing chief executive, Andre de Ruyter — who recently survived an alleged poisoning attempt — board chairperson Mpho Makwana and fellow board member Mteto Nyati, chief financial officer Cali Cassim, as well as Thomas Conradie, the acting general manager for generation. This was according to a list seen by the M&G

Sources who have intimate knowledge of the meeting said ANC MP Matshidiso Mfikoe led the charge against the Eskom delegation,accusing the power utility of sabotaging the party’s relationship with its constituency. 

“Mfikoe said that the ANC’s constituency is angry and that the party was ‘under siege’ because Eskom said it could take two years for the easing of blackouts,” said one highly-placed source, who asked to remain anonymous.

Mfikoe’s view, said another well-placed insider, was echoed by ANC MP Mncedisi Nontsele, who told the meeting that Eskom’s plans had to work within six to 12 months because “anything else will be doom” for his party ahead of the 2024 elections. 

“Mncedisi Nontsele charged that coming to parliament to address the problems of load-shedding without a workable plan to resolve blackouts will not help the ANC,” said the insider, who also spoke on condition of anonymity. 

“Nontsele said that the lack of a workable plan would ‘formalise attacks’ against the ANC, arguing that President Cyril Ramaphosa should chair the sessions of the short-term turnaround plan.” 

Ramaphosa has said he would not attend the World Economic Forum event in Davos, Switzerland, being held this week. 

On Monday, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said in a statement that a media briefing, which the state enterprise said would be held on Monday late afternoon, had to be postponed because of an “emergency” meeting with Ramaphosa. 

“While we aim to hold the media briefing as soon as possible, the date and time can only be confirmed once meetings with the president are concluded,” Mantshantsha stated. 

Several sources said the ANC members were blurring the lines between party and state, and that the party would not take kindly if any opposition party had done the same. 

Responding to questions from the M&G, Mantshantsha said the only meeting he knew of was the one Eskom’s top brass held with Ramaphosa and some members of his cabinet. 

“I am not aware of any meeting Eskom held with the caucus of any political party. The meeting [with the executive members of the government] was called by the president and I know not the contents of the discussion at this point,” Mantshantsha said. 

 He did not respond to questions about the blurring of lines between party and state. 

Meanwhile, Dipuo Peters — who served as the energy minister from 2009 to 2013 under former president Jacob Zuma’s administration, before moving to the transport portfolio — said the ANC should be unequivocal about its support for coal “as a reliable base load”, according to another highly-placed source who also asked to remain anonymous. 

“Comrade Dipuo called it a ‘grave mistake’ for power plants Medupi and Kusile to be far away from coal mines. Comrade Dipuo also added that the mineral resources and energy department should attend to trucking of coal to power plants, including the attendant corruption that comes with.” 

Medupi and Kusile — which are in Limpopo and Mpumalanga, respectively — are the newest of the coal-fired power stations but units keep going down, contributing to the rolling blackouts. 

Detailed questions were sent to ANC chief whip Majodina, who did not respond.