Deputy President David Mabuza has also thrown his weight behind finance minister Tito Mboweni’s contentious economic growth strategy document and backs plans to restructure Eskom.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa also backed Mboweni's recovery plan, a move that likely put him on a collision course with his main backers from the left. However, while Ramaphosa recently told The Economist that he supports his finance minister’s reforms, he said he does not agree to the selling off of new Eskom power stations to save the ailing power utility.

With a mounting debt of R440bn, which it cannot service from revenue, Eskom is regarded as a major risk to SA’s finances.

During a question-and-answer session in parliament on Thursday, Mabuza said he generally agrees with Ramaphosa’s views on the Mboweni document, as well as plans to restructure Eskom.

“I am not aware of any differences between me and president. The fact of the matter is that the discussion you see emanated from the minister of finance. [The issues raised] were first discussed by the ruling party and   cabinet where I sit. Now what you see is a product of a collective within the party, and cabinet,” said Mabuza.

He also said he firmly supports the plans to restructure Eskom, and apologised for the load-shedding which threatens to derail Ramaphosa’s drive to revive the economy.

Labour unions generally oppose the unbundling of Eskom.

Last week, Ramaphosa reiterated that Eskom, which is in the process of being broken up into three entities — generation, transmission and distribution — will not be privatised. Instead, he said, the state will consider developing  smart partnerships” with the private sector.

Some of the controversial ideas contained in Mboweni’s document, which was released in August, include the privatisation of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) that do not serve a developmental purpose, and the sale of some of Eskom’s coal-fired power stations.

The ANC’s alliance partners, the SA Communist Party and trade union federation Cosatu, who were largely responsible for Ramaphosa’s election to head the governing party and the government, are opposed to some of the proposed reforms in the discussion document. They also expressed concern about the lack of consultation and the processes followed ahead of the paper’s release.

Cosatu also disagreed strongly with a number of the policy recommendations, such as exemption for small and medium-sized enterprises from the national minimum wage and the privatisation of Eskom power stations.

The divisions are said to be frustrating efforts to boost SA’s ailing economy.


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