The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Thursday said it is unhappy with the load-shedding being carried out in South Africa and “very disappointed” with the performance of Eskom under the leadership of chief executive André de Ruyter.
“The current management team has taken the country to stage 6 for the first time in the history of this country. This team is perpetually failing to produce sufficient power to avoid load-shedding. Under this leadership, load-shedding is expected to be with us for the next two to three years,” said Khangela Baloyi, NUM Eskom energy sector co-ordinator.
“There is no proper plan in place to prevent load-shedding. This is happening besides the fact that the country is on lockdown. It is happening besides the reality that the economy is not performing well. The poor performance of the national electricity grid is happening because of poor leadership.”
The NUM has called on the government, as the Eskom shareholder, to address the issue of “poor leadership” at the power utility.
“We believe that many professionals will be able to turn around the performance of Eskom. We refuse as the NUM to allow mediocre to continue in our SOEs (state-owned enterprises). This management team is taking Eskom to the same road that SAA (South African Airways) took,” said Baloyi.
“The current leadership of Eskom is pro-IPPs (independent power producers). As we have said before, the IPPs are acting as parasites that are milking Eskom. With the current PPAs (power purchase agreement) with IPPs, Eskom will not survive. The NUM calls on the government to review the current IPPs set-up. These IPPs are not even assisting the country in dealing with load-shedding.”
NUM said it had also observed the introduction of load reduction in areas where poor people reside.
“This is a serious attack on the masses of our people. It is undemocratic and it discriminates against poor people. The reason load-shedding is rotational is to avoid targeting areas, especially poor areas, for electricity blackout. The introduction of load reduction takes away the fairness of load-shedding. We call on the government to instruct Eskom to refrain from load reduction,” said Baloyi.
Reacting to the NUM remarks, Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha said the power utility has lucidly communicated the problems bedevilling it, but there are solutions on the table.
“Over the past year Eskom has clearly communicated what the problems are and (what) the solutions to those are. Eskom has also clearly communicated progress on the implementation of the solutions, mainly the reliability maintenance that seeks to improve the reliability and performance of the generation plant,“ said Mantshantsha.
Earlier this week, energy analyst Ted Blom warned South Africans to brace for what could be the worst bout of load-shedding in Eskom’s 97-year history in 2021.
Blom, addressing a Free Market Foundation webinar this week, said the “corruption, incompetence and ineptitude” which had plagued Eskom since the early 2000s had led to the current state of disrepair of the power utility and that according to his detailed analysis of the SOE’s own official power generation and maintenance data, stages 5 to 8 load-shedding could be on the cards this year.
Quoted in The Mercury, Blom pleaded with Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to allow private power producers to compete effectively with Eskom as the solution to the country’s energy crisis.
Eskom implemented stage 2 load-shedding last Thursday but suspended it from 11pm on Monday, saying that generation capacity had improved.