Load shedding appears to be an intractable problem – Sacci CEO Mukoki

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JOHANNESBURG, March 22 – Load shedding in South Africa has a devastating and negative impact on business and the country’s economy, South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) CEO, Alan Mukoki, said on Friday.

“It is clear that the longer these rolling blackouts continue, the longer it is going to take for the economy to recover. We are concerned about potential job losses and business closures arising out of what appears to be an intractable problem,” he said in a statement.

On Wednesday, Public Enterprises Minister, Pravin Gordhan, said it was going to be a huge struggle to overcome the crisis, which he and senior Eskom officials partly blamed on a failure to maintain plants over the last five years, leaving the state utility with only 28,000 MW of electricity available against  48,000 MW of installed capacity.

At the time, Gordhan and Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza conceded that the state company had not spent enough on maintaining its equipment over the past five years, while new plants Medupi and Kusile had not come on stream. Both acknowledged that Eskom had not communicated its problems to the public openly enough, and Gordhan committed to providing another update in about 14 days on how the current challenges were being addressed.

On Friday, Mukoki said that Eskom and Gordhan did not assist business in gaining confidence that the country was “on top of the situation”, adding that the media conference identified and explained the problems but was “short on effective solutions”.

“We are none the wiser in knowing when and whether this big risk is going to be resolved permanently. Business calls on government to take bold and decisive steps to solve the problem. These steps should include a review of whether the current resource allocation in people, systems, capital and ideas is even adequate,” Mukoki said.

“The high prospects of job losses, and damage that this is likely to cause to economic growth cannot be overstated. This crisis is draining enthusiasm and likely to lead to lower levels of investor confidence. We urge the government to put in the right, most competent and highly experienced people in resolving the problems of Eskom. This can no longer be business as usual.”

Mukoki said that from the outside it was not clear who is in charge at Eskom.

However, earlier on Friday, the African National Congress (ANC) said party and country President Cyril Ramaphosa appealed to South Africans not to panic over Eskom while he was campaigning in Cape Town for the ANC.

“A suggestion of sabotage has been made and investigations are underway. But at the same time, we’ve got to stabilise the grid. Fortunately, the Minister of Public Enterprises (Pravin Gordhan) has reported that they were able to revive and restore the power line from Cahora Bassa. So we will have an additional 900 megawatts,” Ramaphosa was quoted as saying.

“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.”

Ramaphosa said that there was nothing more urgent than restoring the power. (ANA)