Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

After two days of rolling blackouts the government moved into damage-control mode on Thursday and apologised to the country for the hardships cause by the power cuts.

Eskom acting CEO  Jabu Mabuza apologised to SA for the  blackouts at a media briefing in Kempton Park, while Deputy President David Mabuza took advantage of a question-and-answer session in parliament also to say sorry to the nation.

Stage two load-shedding started on Wednesday morning. Eskom COO Jan Oberholzer said system constraints resulted from multiple unplanned outages and other issues which have taken 10,500MW, or more than 20% generation capacity, out of the system. Notably, six units are down due to boiler tube leaks, while a broken conveyor belt feeding coal to Medupi caused the loss of 1,500MW.

Jabu Mabuza said the power cuts were not what he would have wanted near the end of his term as acting group CEO.

“I want to take this time to unreservedly apologise to South Africans‚” he said‚ acknowledging that power consumers were given minimal warning about the outages.

‘Not taken lightly’

The Eskom chair said the decision to implement load-shedding “was not one that we took lightly”.

He said Eskom was disappointed when it was left with no option but to cut off the power supply after having experienced a high level of consumption over the weekend. This was accompanied by a high level of breakdowns.

“The decision to implement load-shedding was taken as last resort. It was one we needed to take to balance supply and demand.… We understand the impact that comes with load-shedding on consumers and the economy‚” Mabuza said.

The second day of scheduled power rationing came ahead of a key ratings agency decision on the country’s investment grade. The embattled state-owned utility, which generates about 95% of the country’s electricity, has long struggled to produce power due to ageing infrastructure and decades of mismanagement.

Businesses and even some school examinations faced power interruptions on Thursday due to the load-shedding, which is being implemented from 9.00am to 11.00pm over the next week.

“I think we must on behalf of the government apologise to all businesses, students that could not write (exams),” David Mabuza told parliament in Cape Town.

“We are looking at the problems that have affected Eskom and we want to assure South Africans that this problem will be attended to and we will come back to normality.”

Eskom announced the stage two load-shedding on Wednesday saying it was “in order to protect the power system from a total collapse”.

Mabuza said that ageing power stations, such as the 49-year-old Hendrina plant in northeastern Mpumalanga province, had contributed to production capacity dropping from 47,000MW to almost 35,000MW in recent years.

Moody’s Investors Service is scheduled to review SA’s investment grade on November 1.

Following rolling blackouts in February and March, ratings agencies raised concerns about the sustainability of the country’s state-owned enterprises, rising government debt and low economic growth.

There had been some signs recently that the country’s economy was rebounding, notching 3.1% growth in the second quarter of 2019.

Mabuza said steps were being taken to improve the viability of state-owned entities such as Eskom, including the Integrated Resource Plan approved by cabinet this week.

The plan aims for the country to have a broader “energy mix”, and involves Eskom being restructured into three entities. Eskom has accumulated R450bn in debt despite receiving multiple bailouts from the government. with AFP