Cachalia on new plan to fix ESKOM & “political interference” in maintenance schedule

The success of a new plan to fix ESKOM hinges on the implementation, the funds available to actually implement it – and the political will to do so. That is the warning from the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises Ghaleb Cachalia. He speaks to BizNews following the announcement that Germany-based energy consultants have completed a review of South Africa’s struggling coal-fired plants to present a revival plan to Treasury. Meanwhile, Cachalia accuses government of “political interference” in the run-up to election. “…if you look at ESKOM’s just recently published…schedule of planned maintenance, you’ll see that there’s a lot of maintenance going on now and over a period of time leading up to the elections. Just before the elections the planned maintenance comes down. So we suffer now in Stage Seven, but hey presto, somebody “fixes” everything…just around the election time.” – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:09 – Introductions
  • 00:25 – Chaleb Gachalia on the plans to fix to Eskom and if it’s reason to rejoice
  • 03:21 – On the time frame of the plans should they be accepted
  • 05:05 – Implementation and political will
  • 06:23 – If there’s a budget for this refurbishment
  • 09:05 – How many years were lost by first wanting to decommission the stations and now wanting to revive them again
  • 09:42 – Hovering at stage 7 or 8
  • 10:40 – Loadshedding more of a problem for the poor
  • 11:35 – Optimism after the latest development
  • 12:19 – Conclusions

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Highlights from the Interview

The success of a new plan to fix ESKOM hinges on the implementation, the funds available to actually implement it – and the political will to do so.

That is the warning from the Democratic Alliance’s (DA’s) Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises Ghaleb Cachalia.

He spoke to BizNews after the announcement that Germany-based energy consultants have completed a review of South Africa’s struggling coal-fired plants to present a revival plan to the Treasury.

Read more: German consultants complete revival plan for Eskom coal plants

“The Germans will come up with a cogent plan. The Germans do that better than most….If that is adhered to properly, we will have a short-term solution, which is what we need, while we work on long-term solutions in parallel.

“Now we haven’t seen the plan, but providing it is accepted…What stands in the way? The lack of transparency, the absence of funds, the absence of skills, and the lack of political will in the right direction. Those are the problems that we need to overcome.”

Meanwhile, with loadshedding hovering at Stage 7, Cachalia accuses the government of political interference in the run-up to the election. “…if you look at ESKOM’s just recently published, the other day or even today, schedule of planned maintenance, you’ll see that there’s a lot of maintenance going on now and over a period of time leading up to the elections. Just before the elections the planned maintenance comes down. So we suffer now in Stage Seven, but hey presto, somebody fixes everything in inverted commas on the face of looking at the document, just around the election time. Now that’s the essence of political interference. 

“So if we are going to do things properly and not play games with the public and with industry, then yes, let’s take this report from the Germans. Let us look at it, make it public. Let us look at exactly what needs to be done and then let’s do it. And let’s do it in the time frame that is required in the way that it is said that it needs to be done to achieve the best result. Let’s not tinker from on high.”

Read more: A story of two SA people brands: Ackerman and Buthelezi

Commenting on the time lost by the Government first wanting to decommission the coal-powered stations and now moving to refurbish them again, he says: “Well, we’ve lost lots of years…We tinker at the edges. We…decide to do one thing and then we decide to do another. Meanwhile, the people in charge do exactly what they want to do. And what they have done has brought us to this incredibly powerless place. We need certainty. We need firm decision making. We need exact quantification of what is required in terms of money and skills to do so. And then we need to do so without interference.”

Cachalia calls for “all the issues around ESKOM to be tightened up. “The security issues, the stealing issues, the tight rein over who’s doing what and who’s wasting time and who’s not. All of those things need to be tightened up. And that needs to be done in parallel. Had that been done a long time ago, we might not have been in this position. One can only hope that it will be done now.”

And he describes how he is being contacted by people who have “zero electricity” for days on end. “There are others who have to live on an hour of electricity or two hours of electricity. These are people who are running businesses, running households, running farmsteads. It’s completely untenable.

“…we’re above Stage Six, that’s for sure. Yeah. If things don’t get better in the short term, that’s gonna accelerate. And that, in the short term, is going to wreak havoc on our economy and on the lives of people.”

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