“Job-shedding” – Steenhuisen explains how ANC’s lack of urgency on Eskom is damaging SA

Last week DA leader John Steenhuisen’s proposed oversight trip to the disastrous Kusile power station was blocked by security guards on the instruction of ANC cabinet member Pravin Gordhan. Kusile was approved in 2007 as an eight-year project slated to cost R80bn. Now, 15 years later, it has cost over R200bn and only two of its six generation units are actually working. In this fascinating interview with Alec Hogg of BizNews, the SA’s Parliamentary Leader of the Opposition shares the back story of the oversight visit that never was, offers some suggestions to his political opponents (hint: Thailand) – and explains what a DA government would be doing about Eskom.

Please see timestamped topics below

00:43: Reason for Kusile visit

03:56: Kusile’s history

04:46: Kusile’s generating units

07:20: War cabinet

10:49: Eskom’s budget

13:41: How the DA would deal with Eskom

17:40: The plan to sell electricity back into the grid

John Steenhuisen on his visit to Kusile

It’s very important as a member of Parliament not to sit in the air-conditioned rooms and just accept what’s been put in front of you as fact. One of my predecessors, Helen Suzman, always said, “Go and see for yourself.” And that’s how you get to the bottom of what’s really going on. So I’m a big proponent of going to see for myself. I want to be part of the solution for this. And one of the things I wanted to do was to engage with the officials at Kusile to understand whether the excuses we keep being given about why things are not working there, why the thing’s over budget, why it’s way overdue in terms of the time and why it’s not producing enough electricity. I wanted to find out firsthand from them what was going on. And obviously, it’s very frustrating when it’s a member of Parliament and, as the leader of the opposition, which is actually a constitutional office in South Africa, you’re prevented from doing so and on the flimsiest of grounds. 

On Kusile

The thing [Kusile} was supposed to be finished almost eight or nine years ago and it was supposed to be R80 billion. Well, I think we’re sitting at over R200 billion and we’re still sitting with the thing not working. And, as I said, it is a monument to the failed ideology of the government and of the department. And if we’re looking to Kusile and Medupi as the model to get us out of the crisis, I think we should be very worried if that’s what government’s clinging to, because it’s not going to get us out of the crisis we’re in. 

On selling electricity back into the grid

It was a great plan, but the reality is it’s not being implemented. And the man that he tasked with implementing the plan happens to be on some mysterious trip to Russia yet again. David Mabuza was appointed by Cyril Ramaphosa to deal with the Eskom matter and electricity and the energy war room, as he called it. But the reality is that very little of that plan has actually been implemented and we’re running a tracker on our website which looks at just how much of that plan has been implemented and what hasn’t. The easiest one is allowing people to sell into the grid, but municipalities have to then be empowered to work out price points and to work out a measure to be able to re-compensate people for what they put into the grid or offset it against their current bill. And that remains in place. They are still required to get the permission of the national minister before they can go out and do that, and that is an arduous process. So I think there’s still far too much red tape. And when it comes to government’s restrictions, these things like localisation, preferential procurement, etc. are not helping. 

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