Eskom’s worst error – giving Buffett a cold shoulder

Things might have been so very different at Eskom which, as chairman Jabu Mabuza told the nation a couple weeks back, “is not sustainable…we are locked into a permanent loss-making position.”

Some years back I was involved in setting up discussions between Eskom’s then operations chief Steve Lennon and the top executives at the massive Berkshire Hathaway Energy, one of the US’s major electricity suppliers.

An idea had been hatched during discussions with Howard Buffett, Warren’s son and Berkshire’s next chairman. Howard, then a permanent resident in South Africa, saw the 2008 load shedding disaster as an opportunity for the group and got the right people interested.

Unfortunately, Lennon told me, no agreement could be reached. So Eskom lurched ever deeper into its destructive spiral and is now at a point where it can only dream of attracting the interest of a Berkshire (or any other respected electricity provider). Let’s hope political ideology doesn’t again trump economics in finding solutions to Eskom’s latest crisis.