Democratic Alliance (DA) leader John Steenhuisen on Wednesday said President Cyril Ramaphosa must agree to urgently address the critical skills shortage at State-owned enterprise Eskom.
Steenhuisen was speaking in Johannesburg, after he was denied access to the Kusile power station in Witbank, where he planned to conduct an oversight visit.
He explained that most of the critical jobs at Eskom were currently held by people who did not know what they were doing, from the executive to management to employees. He said the utility desperately needed experts in power generation.
This as South Africans continue to deal with various stages of loadshedding this week.
“Those experts are out there - some here in South Africa, some abroad - and we need to recruit them into Eskom as a matter of urgency. Forget cadre deployment, forget the made-up rules on employment equity, all that matters here is employing the people who can save Eskom and save our country,” he said.
He also urged Ramaphosa to assemble an Energy War Cabinet to see the country through a “spiralling electricity catastrophe”, such as a grid collapse.
He said this War Cabinet should contain independent experts in the energy field who knew what a recovery required, and who could counterbalance the “ideological drag” of the African National Congress (ANC) Cabinet and Ramaphosa’s “deadbeat” Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe.
“They must be given free rein to act in the interest of the country and not the party,” he said.
Ramaphosa is currently on a State Visit in the UK, which will conclude on Thursday.
Steenhuisen said the President should urgently return to South Africa and address the nation on his plans to avert the disaster of a grid collapse.
He questioned why Ramaphosa did not give regular updates on the energy crisis, as he had done during the Covid-19 lockdown,
“Where are those updates now?” Steenhuisen asked.
He claimed the country was collapsing under the weight of three decades of ANC neglect and looting, and criticised Ramaphosa for “trying to shine its tarnished image for the press and investors, and posing for photos at Buckingham Palace”.
“But surely the President knows that if you want to attract new investment and retain current investment, then a reliable supply of electricity is an absolute basic requirement. This is not the time for flags and parades, for tea and scones and selfies with the Royals. This is the time to bring all hands on deck and stage a fight-back. This is the time to be present, realistic and transparent,” he added.
He suggested that Ramaphosa urgently declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster around Eskom, which he believed should have been done months ago, when the President presented his Energy Response Plan.
He said disaster relief funding could be reprioritised to keep the open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.
CROOKED PROCUREMENT DEALS
“And an admission that the relentless looting of Eskom through crooked procurement deals and kickbacks, which has become synonymous with this ANC government, could only ever have one outcome: the destruction of South Africa,” Steenhuisen said.
Steenhuisen went on to say that the Kusile power station was symbolic of the failures of the ANC through “crooked procurement”.
Construction on Kusile began in 2007 and was meant to have been completed in 2014 with a budget of R80-billion.
The DA leader pointed out that in 2022, its final budget estimate has inflated to well over R200-billion, and it is still not finished.
“Kusile has six generation units, but as we speak four of them are down, and will be that way for months, if not years. Kusile, along with the Medupi station in Limpopo, was meant to be the ANC’s answer to our looming energy crisis. But instead of alleviating the pressure, they’ve simply added to it. And let us not forget that both Medupi and Kusile saw some of the worst looting in our country’s history. In 2019 a corruption scandal was revealed here at Kusile which involved various Eskom executives, at least four contractors, and R10-billion worth of contracts,” he said.