By Staff Reporters

Eskom and the government’s promises that by now load-shedding would be a thing of the past have not been marked with any fruits. The momentum of rolling blackouts is increasing in intensity instead of easing. During his tenure as the country’s then deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa oversaw a war room that was created to turn things around at Eskom. On 2 September in 2015, Ramaphosa promised the nation: “In another 18 months to two years you will forget that the challenges we had in relation to power and Eskom ever existed.” Ramaphosa’s hollow promise came about as a response to questions from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), where he declared load-shedding would be over no later than September 2017. South Africans have not seen the promise come to light, seven years later. South Africa’s energy problems have taken a turn for the worse. Load-shedding, which has become palpable, is here to stay longer than we had anticipated. It has become so intense that Ramaphosa returned from England with a promise to end load-shedding, something he has done for the second time.
Cutting his visit short was presented as an attempt to ‘deal specifically with the country’s load-shedding crisis. On his return, Ramaphosa held a Cabinet meeting. The meeting which began at 8am on Wednesday, 21 September was followed in the evening by a statement from Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams who did not give citizens any hope. All she revealed was that “the executive was still deliberating”. Deliberation, as some have observed, will come to naught because seven years later, solutions to end load-shedding are always deliberated ad nauseam. Every day, people wake up to load-shedding, go to work while there is load-shedding and return from work hours later to load-shedding.
When they finally get a few hours to cook, clean, eat, help kids with homework, they do so in a hurry because before you know it, it is load-shedding again. All that has been done by Eskom is taking the stages of load-shedding a notch higher. In the updates that were uploaded on its social media platforms, it said blackouts would continue. In a press statement issued on Friday, 23 September Eskom said: “The capacity constraints will persist throughout next week, and current indications are that load-shedding will be implemented at Stage 3 for most of the week.” The announcement comes just after Public Enterprise Minister, Pravin Gordhan, said power cuts should ease. Gordhan said electricity supply would continue to improve over the medium term as new investments bolster generation. “We will have load-shedding for a while in South Africa,” Gordhan told Bloomberg TV. “But not of the order we’ve seen in the recent past.”
He added that there was no risk of prolonged outages. When André de Ruyter was appointed Eskom CEO, he promised load-shedding would no longer be a reality… instead it has become worse.
Soon after De Ruyter became Eskom’s Group CEO, he promised Eskom would “significantly reduce load-shedding from September 2021”. He put it in plain words that Eskom was jacking up its maintenance plans, necessitating more load-shedding in the interim. He announced: “We anticipate the maintenance programme will go on for about a period of 18 months.” De Ruyter vowed Eskom would no longer defer maintenance as it was “now actively working on maintaining its power stations”. “In the past, we neglected to perform scheduled maintenance as required, and those legacies are coming home and causing us to have unreliable equipment. “This will cause us to have an increased probability of load-shedding over the medium-term as we fix the system,” said De Ruyter.

De Ruyter: hit or miss?
In July, City Press reported there was hope of a light at the end of the load-shedding tunnel when De Ruyter was appointed CEO at the power utility two years ago, but that has not been the case.
On the contrary, Mzansi has been subjected to the most terrible cycles of load-shedding under De Ruyter and Eskom’s current executive committee and board. In various press briefings, the power utility’s leadership has blamed unidentified saboteurs for crippling capacity to provide continuous electricity.
In the City Press report, Duma Gqubule of the Centre for Economic Development and Transformation, said the elephant in the room was De Ruyter and the entire executive committee leadership, who are handled with kid gloves, despite their incompetence. “If André were a black person, he’d have been fired a long time ago. I think he’s protected because he’s white. We must tell it like it is. The level of incompetence of this leadership is incredible – and there’s also no leadership from the top in terms of the President,” Gqubule told City Press.
Gqubule further stated: “They must stop scapegoating workers. We had three or four days of labour unrest and now they’re blaming workers for long-term systemic issues. These are systemic issues that have worsened under André’s leadership and the leadership of the board.”
Trade union Numsa, whose members had embarked on what was termed an illegal strike over wage increases, said De Ruyter had been the wrong person for the job from the outset.
“In our view, he’s executing a mandate, which is to privatise Eskom. Stabilising the grid is something he has no understanding of, which is why we’ve experienced the highest level of load-shedding.”
On the other hand, economist Lumkile Mondi told City Press the problems at Eskom were beyond De Ruyter’s scope as the root problem was a corrupt governing party that had run out of ideas. Mondi added that Eskom, like many other state-owned enterprises, had had its resources hollowed out.
Energy expert, Ted Blom, put it bluntly when he told the publication, “De Ruyter had long passed his sell-by date.”
“He’s done nothing – absolutely nothing – to fix Eskom.”
In an interview with East Coast Radio, following the recent bouts of blackouts, Blom said De Ruyter has failed to fulfil his promise to fix Eskom within 18 months.
“Whether he made that commitment out of ignorance or arrogance, I don’t care anymore. Most South Africans are with me now in that we are saying enough is enough.”
Blom is not does not think the promises to minimise load-shedding will amount to anything. He told the radio station what is needed right now is urgent action.
“Three years ago, I put a solution on the table to get in emergency generated power at a rate of 1 gigawatt every three weeks. We could’ve delivered the required amount of space that Eskom has been boasting about for the last three years. We could’ve put it down in three months.
“The fact of the matter is that the proposal, I was told, will receive urgent attention from the Chief Operating Officer delegating to a senior manager. The senior manager, after the meeting, said to me ‘watch this space’.” Blom called for “significant solutions and a management shake-up at Eskom”.

Busa is concerned
Business Unity SA (Busa) issued a media statement where it stated: “We are extremely concerned by the recent spate of load-shedding, which has, yet again, reached Stage 6. We recognise and appreciate that progress has been made in implementing the Energy Plan announced by the President a few weeks ago, but the economic damage of the ongoing load-shedding is severe and there must be an immediate intervention to deal with the crisis to, at least, manage load-shedding better.
“Stage 6 load-shedding is a major blow to an economy that is already battling to achieve growth, because of some global headwinds, but primarily because the government is still not taking tough decisions on structural reforms and priority interventions to increase investment and stimulate growth.”
Busa said it has been “urging the government to urgently implement identified priority interventions”.
“The second quarter’s 0.7% decline in the economy was mostly caused by the continued blackouts, which have made this year the worst on record.”
The organisation further stated: “Estimations are that the current load-shedding is costing South Africa around R4 billion a day. The country cannot afford this, and it is exacerbating an already-strained socio-economic situation. Small and medium businesses are experiencing severe difficulties and many may not be able to recover from this. Also, the disruption to the day-to-day lives of ordinary citizens is severe.
“Business is assisting the government with the President’s Energy Plan and we are ready to support immediate interventions to address the immediate crisis, or at least ameliorate it. We await the government’s lead.”

Ramaphosa’s administration: is it leading?
Fed-up and frustrated citizens have expressed their rage on social media regarding the rolling blackouts.
Monique Walker from Centurion was so outraged that she said: “This man is great bullshitter.
“He is a true spin doctor and storyteller. They should make a sitcom of the shenanigans from the President and his circus of Cabinet ministers,” she said.
Walker told The Telegram: “The only conclusion is that there’s no plan, and he’s running out of excuses now.” Kamogelo Molokomme from Atteridgeville said the ANC has been programming people’s minds for two decades to accept mediocrity and reward it.
“By the time South Africans wake up, Zimbabwe would be comparable to paradise,” he said.
Kagiso Banda from Soshanguve said a lot of people do not know on which stage we are on.
He also accused Eskom of exporting electricity while South Africans were subjected to load-shedding.
“Eskom is selling power to neighbouring countries. We are also exporting huge amounts of clean, good coal,” he said, suggesting our government is more interested in helping everyone else, at the expense of its own people.

Ramaphosa’s unfulfilled promises; compiled by
In 2019 Ramaphosa’s administration promised to take a direct interest in the ongoing electricity crisis, as record-setting stage 6 electricity rationing was implemented in December of that year.
“Our immediate priority is to get as much generating capacity back on line within the shortest possible time. Eskom’s emergency response command centre and technical teams are working around the clock to fix multiple breakdowns,” he told angry and frustrated South Africans at the time.
In July this year, Ramaphosa said the government was making real progress in dealing with load shedding, highlighting two things that should have provided relief to the grid in the short term: a wage agreement between Eskom and the unions representing its workers, and law enforcement work “to tackle sabotage, theft and fraud at Eskom to address the threat that these criminal actions pose to the electricity system”.

  1. “The severe load-shedding of the last few days has reminded us how unstable our ageing power stations are… Solving the electricity crisis is necessary, if we are to realise the potential of our economy,” wrote Ramaphosa in the 20 July edition of his From the Desk of the President newsletter titled Solving the electricity challenge is vital for South Africa’s investment drive.
  2. “We will soon be completing detailed work and consultations needed to finalise these further measures. We will then, in the coming days, be able to announce a comprehensive set of actions to achieve much faster progress in tackling load-shedding,” he wrote in the 11 July 2022 edition of his From the Desk of the President newsletter titled We can and will do more to end load-shedding.
  3. “Eskom has made much progress in implementing its nine-point plan, ensuring better maintenance of its generation fleet, reducing costs and ensuring adequate reserves of coal,” he said during his State of the Nation Address (February 2019).
  4. “Eskom’s contribution to the health of our economy is too great for it to be allowed to fail… Restoring energy security for the country is an absolute imperative,” Ramaphosa told the Cape Town Mining Indaba (February 2019).
  5. “We want to put Eskom on a sustainable operational path, and we have seen great improvements. We are closely engaged with the situation at Eskom, with the implementation of the nine-point plan, strengthening the board and setting out a road map for the future,” Ramaphosa responded to a debate by Members of Parliament on his State of the Nation Address (June 2019).
  6. “We are addressing the Eskom issue every day. I’m saying to the whole nation let’s not panic, let us join hands, close ranks and work together. That is why we are addressing it on an urgent basis. There is nothing much more urgent than restoring the power,” said Ramaphosa on 23 March 2019, when SA was hit by ongoing load-shedding again.
  7. “Our citizens deserve to be able to conduct their lives, go to school and operate their businesses confident that they will not be plunged into darkness without warning. At the same time, as citizens, we must understand that when we do not pay, we are part of the problem,” wrote Ramaphosa in his weekly newsletter in October 2019.

Way back…
“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power and energy and Eskom ever happened,” Cyril Ramaphosa, (2 September 2015). He had been tasked by the Cabinet in 2014 to turn SOEs around and was reporting on his progress to the NCOP. –ANC Quotes,
@QuotesAnc, (10 December 2019).

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