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S. African deputy president vows to restructure embattled power utility

South African Deputy President David Mabuza

Kampala, Uganda | XINHUA |   South African Deputy President David Mabuza on Thursday vowed to restructure embattled electricity utility Eskom in a phased manner to ensure energy stabilization.

The government is pleased with the progress being made to transform Eskom under new CEO, Andre de Ruyter, Mabuza said while replying to oral questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), or Upper House of Parliament.

This came after another round of rolling power blackouts plunged the country into darkness.

Mabuza said the government has taken a view that Eskom must be supported to implement a comprehensive turnaround program to ensure that the utility develops and enhances its requisite institutional capabilities to meet the country’s energy needs.

Mabuza sidestepped a question about whether state-run Eskom would be privatized, saying South Africans must be confident that “we are going to get out of this problem.”

He reiterated that the government has taken a view that Eskom must be funded to meet the country’s energy needs.

On Wednesday, Eskom informed Parliament’s Standing Committee on Appropriations that its gross debt stood at 488 billion rand (about 29.2 billion U.S. dollars).

Eskom Chief Financial Officer Calib Cassiem admitted that without the government’s recapitalization, Eskom would not have been in a position to meet its obligations.

Mabuza said that despite the current challenge of continued load shedding, South Africans should be confident that this will be sorted out once the Medupi power plant in Limpopo Province is incorporated into the national grid.

He apologized for continued disruptions of power supply which he said were caused by maintenance challenges.

South Africa’s power crisis worsened on Wednesday when Eskom escalated the level of load shedding from level two to level four.

This was the highest level of load shedding that has been implemented this year.

Stage two load shedding allows up to 2,000 MW to be shed, while stage four calls for 4,000 MW to be rotationally cut off.

Under stage four load shedding, South Africans have to endure unscheduled power cuts at any given time without any warning for close to four hours at a time.

Eskom attributed the escalation to the continuing severe generation supply constraints caused by multiple unit breakdowns as well as the additional demand caused by the cold weather.

The country has been hit by three rounds of load shedding since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March.

South Africa has suffered from electricity insufficiency for more than a decade, with power blackouts having become increasingly frequent in recent years.

Load shedding costs the country billions of rands a day and trillions over the years.



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