Why will an Eskom in three parts be better than one big Eskom? That’s the question that President Cyril Ramaphosa did not quite answer in Thursday’s state of the nation speech. There are some compelling reasons, though. Similar proposals have emerged from the ANC, the DA, the Eskom board, Ramaphosa’s expert task team. Unfortunately, outside of this broad consensus, stands labour and elements of the old Jacob Zuma order. Taking labour along as a partner on Eskom’s new journey will be critical to whether the plan succeeds or fails. Importantly though, if done well, the unbundling should help the biggest stakeholder in the game — the consumer — of which an important subset is business. How will it work? The starting point is the current state of Eskom. The company is in what has been described elsewhere in the world as “a utility death spiral” brought about, in part, by rapid changes in technology. Eskom’s death spiral is more acute than usual because of the enormous debt burden it has...

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