The government only envisages completing the process of restructuring or unbundling Eskom into three separate entities in 2022.
This is according to Deputy President David Mabuza, who announced this while responding to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces on Thursday.
This was Mabuza’s first appearance in parliament in several months after his previous question-and-answer sessions were postponed in July and in August owing to ill-health.
Responding to a question from ANC MP Tshitereke Matibe, Mabuza reported steady progress in the restructuring of Eskom into three entities — a move President Cyril Ramaphosa first announced in his 2019 state of the nation address.
In that Sona, Ramaphosa said that to beef up its operational efficiency, Eskom would be unbundled into separate firms: one responsible for generation, one for distribution and one for transmission.
Mabuza has been appointed by Ramaphosa to lead a task team on the sustainability and turnaround of Eskom.
“We’re pleased by the progress we’re making, better transforming and improving the performance of Eskom under the leadership of the new CEO,” he said.
“The timeline can be up to 2022. We hope by that time we’ll have completed the restructuring of the whole entity, dividing into three entities.”
Mabuza then moved to apologise to the country for Eskom’s ongoing load-shedding, which on Wednesday suddenly moved from stage 2 to stage 4, meaning residents and the economy could now experience power cuts up to three times a day.
“We must apologise for the continued disruptions in terms of energy supply. This is because of our maintenance challenges. Our people and honourable members will understand that we’re dealing with a very old fleet and from time to time it presents operational problems,” he said.
“We’re confident with the introduction of Medupi and Kusile into the grid — I think Medupi would be operational at the end of the year, if everything goes well — gradually it will reduce pressure on the generation of electricity.”
But DA MP Armand Benjamin Cloete was not sympathetic to Mabuza and his Eskom load-shedding woes.
“South Africans and the economy lose billions due to load-shedding. Now you say our people will understand, but they don’t understand why we had stage 2 and stage 4 yesterday. So I would like to know from you, deputy president, are high levels of load-shedding [expected] in the coming weeks?” asked Cloete.
But Mabuza merely repeated that Eskom was running old power plants which had aged, presenting maintenance problems.
“South Africans must be confident that we’re going to get out of this problem. Why I am saying so is that there’s a new-build programme. The new-build programme allows for the introduction of additional capacity. It will come from Medupi and Kusile.
“We’re also opening another window of independent power producers that will come. We’re expecting more than 2,000 megawatts that will come from that direction.”
Another DA MP Christiaan Smit said Mabuza’s answers were “quite discouraging … that we’ll see as we go.”
By Thabo Mokone