Editorial | Eskom recovery plan a matter of urgency

PREMIUM

After a comfortable few months we were rudely awakened with Stage 4 load shedding on Monday. And, whether or not we listened to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address last week in which Eskom’s woes featured prominently, the reality of the mess we are in is clear to all when load shedding of this magnitude hits us.
Nelson Mandela metro in addition also had to contend with heavy rain, thunder and lightning on Monday, making the lack of electricity in certain areas even more hard hitting.
Eskom says these outages are a last resort to protect the power grid from total collapse but also warns that capacity problems – and with that, further load shedding – could continue until April or possibly later.
Ramaphosa made it clear in his Sona address that the government would tackle the issue of state institutions mismanaged over many years, giving a broad outline of how Eskom will be remodelled and split into three state-owned entities.
However, that is small comfort for the average household in the immediate future.
We must appreciate that, though Ramaphosa has said the government would step in to support Eskom’s balance sheet, he has also warned that the process should be done “without burdening the fiscus with unmanageable debt”.
We hope finance minister Tito Mboweni will be able to clarify funding when he gives his budget speech on February 20. Eskom is in a sinkhole of debt – the astronomical sum of R419bn – and it is obvious that Mboweni, like Ramaphosa, does not possess a magic wand.
Therefore, any changes are likely to be incremental rather than radical.
It is clear that money meant for maintenance and good corporate governance at Eskom has not been well spent.
The impact of this on our economy may be felt for some time. But a decisive recovery plan must be implemented immediately...

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