Ramaphosa’s Eskom rescue mission akin to SA’s Dunkirk

CAPE TOWN — Somewhat like Dunkirk where over 338,000 troops were rescued from the beaches while the threatening German spearhead halted to consolidate their advance, South Africa’s State Capture storm troopers had to pause to re-assess when Cyril Ramaphosa narrowly won the party presidency exactly a year ago. The beaches are still being cleared, not without severe casualties, with many crucial battles won. However, unlike that tragic global conflagration, the overall war has yet to be won and the enemy, although severely weakened, remains within. The presidential announcement of an Eskom Sustainability Task Team could be compared to the first and most appropriate navy and merchant navy vessels arriving at Dunkirk. Should this presidential task team succeed in helping sustain the metaphor, the evacuation will accelerate and it will be mostly plain sailing (with some isolated aerial attacks), to safer home shores where an entire nation can once again exhale. The importance of this Eskom task team, somewhat like the Nugent Commission recommendations (see elsewhere today) cannot be overemphasised. Taken together, they are the protective big guns in South Africa’s rescue fleet. – Chris Bateman

Presidency statement

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appointed an Eskom Sustainability Task Team to advise government on actions to resolve Eskom’s operational, structural and financial challenges.

This high-level task team consists of individuals with extensive electricity, management and economic expertise.

The Eskom Sustainability Task Team will:

  • Assess the operational, structural and financial viability of Eskom, including key assumptions around life of plant, impact and cost of environment commitments and demand assumptions.
  • Review the turnaround strategy submitted by the Eskom Board of Directors. This will include a review of key assumptions, impact on tariffs and industry, and viability of proposed solutions on the future role of Eskom.
  • Assess the appropriateness of the current Eskom business model and structure.
  • Present a view on the current energy trends and the evolution of the global energy context.
  • Present a view on the role, positioning and structure of energy utilities and provide proposals.
  • Propose alternative business and financial models appropriate for the South African context.
  • Propose how the structure of the electricity industry in South Africa can adapt to evolving changes in this sector, including the harnessing of new technologies.
  • Make proposals to resolve the debt burden.

President Ramaphosa has appointed the following task team members:

  • Anton Eberhard
  • Brian Dames
  • Tsakani Mthombeni
  • Sy Gourrah
  • Grové Steyn
  • Frans Baleni
  • Mick Davis
  • Busisiwe Vilakazi

The task team will consult with various role players including labour and business.

The assessments that will be carried out by the task team arise from government’s concern that the lack of adequate electricity has a negative impact on economic recovery and that there is a need for intervention in the short and medium term, to restore the supply-demand balance.

This is coupled with severe financial constraints at Eskom, which impact on the fiscus, and where operational and financial issues have become inter-related and need to be addressed simultaneously.

Also Read: The R100bn debt swap: Cyril bats away Eskom’s bailout hopes

The Board of Directors, Management and the Department of Public Enterprises will work with the task team.

Appreciating the urgency of the matter, the President has requested the task team to submit initial recommendations by the end of January 2019.