Thabo Mbeki takes swipe at Eskom executives, notes need to ‘raise quality of leadership’ in SA
Former president Thabo Mbeki has implied that Eskom’s management may not be appropriately suited to run the state-owned power utility. Mbeki believes South Africa lacks true leadership in all spheres, whether in government or society.
Former president Thabo Mbeki took a veiled swipe at Eskom executives following prolonged rolling blackouts.
Speaking at the University of South Africa’s Muckleneuk Campus in Tshwane on Wednesday afternoon, Mbeki quoted former Statistician-General Pali Lehohla: “Eskom is a big business and, therefore, in terms of its leadership, you need engineers and economists but instead we have politicians and accountants.”
“I am not saying Pali was right, but this is what he said. But he was looking again at this question; I am trying to raise the quality of leadership in our country,” Mbeki said.
“We face big challenges here at home, a challenge of leadership…in government and generally in society”- Thabo Mbeki
— Queenin Masuabi (@Queenin_M) September 21, 2022
He questioned the defects at Medupi and Kusile power stations, which continue to break down despite their being the newest power stations built by Eskom.
Earlier this year, while responding orally to questions from members of Parliament, Deputy President David Mabuza said that while Eskom had made progress in identifying design defects at the power stations and was rectifying them, this process would only be concluded by the end of 2027.
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Mbeki’s criticism comes after residents and businesses suffered long hours without electricity during stepped-up rolling blackouts. Eskom placed the country on different stages of power cuts from last week, with the power utility moving to Stage 6 on Sunday, which saw South Africans experiencing six hours of blackouts per day — sometimes more.
Ironically, South Africa first began experiencing rolling blackouts in 2007 when Mbeki was president. In January 2008, Mbeki apologised for the load shedding and said, the government was taking “collective responsibility” for its failure to ignore Eskom’s warnings.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “Waking up to Stage 6, now Eskom execs are fighting to fend off Stage 8 power cuts”
A Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa, placed the power crisis at the top of the agenda. This followed a virtual emergency meeting on Sunday with several ministers to discuss how to solve the energy crisis. Present at the meeting were members of the National Energy Crisis Committee as well as ministers responsible for overseeing the structure.
Read more in Daily Maverick: “SA heading for ‘disastrous economic consequences’ — Updates and analysis on the latest power cuts”
After Wednesday’s meeting, Cabinet spokesperson Phumla Williams said Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had presented a briefing on the capacity of Eskom and a progress report from the Technical Committee of the National Energy Crisis Committee.
JUST IN: The government has released a one page statement about the cabinet meeting held today to discuss the energy crisis. After the president cancelled his trip to #UNGA in New York,cabinet is still deliberating on reports delivered by the Public Enterprises minister pic.twitter.com/kegZExCmFc
— Ziyanda N (@ZiyandaNgcobo) September 21, 2022
“Cabinet expressed regret that intermittent load shedding is happening at the time when the government is vigorously engaged with the interventions announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2022 to overcome the surmountable energy crisis facing the country.
“Meanwhile, Cabinet remains committed to resolving the issue of energy security in the country and welcomes the concerted efforts being made by government and stakeholders to find a permanent solution to end load shedding,” Williams said.
Ramaphosa cut his international travels short to return to South Africa and deal with the Eskom crisis. Ramaphosa met US President Joe Biden on Friday, 16 September, then flew to London before Queen Elizabeth’s funeral on Monday, 19 September.
He was scheduled to return to New York after the funeral to attend this week’s high-level opening of the annual United Nations General Assembly session. But Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Vincent Magwenya, announced on Sunday that the President had changed his plans. DM