Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

The problems at Eskom had run for too long and were too big and too deep for any hope of a quick fix, newly appointed chairman Jabu Mabuza told business leaders at a conference on the future of SA hosted by Bloomberg in Cape Town on Wednesday.

But he went on to say: "Come July, when we hit the market, we will at least have the right story to tell them and we will be able to show them evidence."

Mabuza, who said he was looking forward to the future under President Cyril Ramaphosa, has spent the first few weeks sorting out governance issues at the power utility and is continuing with disciplinary matters.

"We are very encouraged that what Cyril Ramaphosa told us to do at Eskom, he is doing in his own Cabinet," Mabuza said in reference to the removal of problematic executives at the national electricity supplier.

He acknowledged the need for job creation and skills development but said those who were employed must do their jobs properly. "In South Africa, it costs us twice as many people to produce half as much electricity as comparable electricity facilities. Eskom has 47,000 employees; people say we should only have 16,000."

Mabuza said when considering the issue of employment, business, labour and government needed to work together.

"We have to ask what is right for SA today. What are the margins we’re prepared to forego, what are the wages acceptable to take people off the street?"

Anglo American CEO Mark Cutifani said the South African mining industry should be twice the size it is today but had lost out because of what happened during the past five years.

"We can turn it around, with policy certainty and working together," said Cutifani, who believes the country is ideally placed to create a global industry from its mineral resources.

He said the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act and the Mining Charter could be part of a partnership framework that deals with the promotion of the country’s platinum industry.

Cutifani said from the mining industry’s point of view, SA’s future had just got a lot brighter.

He said mining industry leaders had met with the new minister, Gwede Mantashe.

"It was a great meeting, a meeting we’ve been looking for, for probably two to three years," he said.

Cutifani said Anglo had been doing a lot of work with the communities in which it operates. He said the company could not employ everyone, "but we can contribute to developing infrastructure and investing in skills to make a difference to those communities".

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told the conference the challenge with state-owned enterprises (SOEs) was "how to get them to play their economic and developmental role and make them more effective and efficient".

SOEs had to have credibility and integrity so there were not continuous questions asked about how procurement was done and deals made.