Carol Paton Editor at Large
Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Jabu Mabuza. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Eskom chairman Jabu Mabuza resigned unexpectedly on Friday, taking the rap for Eskom’s failure to meet the commitment made to President Cyril Ramaphosa that there would be no load-shedding before January 13.

The rolling blackouts resumed on Saturday and have continued throughout this week.

The furore over whether Ramaphosa was misled by Eskom has snowballed since comments yesterday by deputy president David Mabuza that both the Eskom board and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan had misled Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa’s office later said that Mabuza’s comment had been without malicious intent. Since then, calls for Gordhan’s resignation have grown with Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla, the closest Ramaphosa ally, being the latest to call for Gordhan’s head.

In a statement issued on Friday Ramphosa’s office said that he had noted Mabuza’s resignation.

“In his resignation letter Mr Mabuza apologised for Eskom’s inability to meet the commitment it made to the president, the deputy president and the relevant ministers at a meeting on December 11 2019 to avoid load-shedding over this period. At this meeting, Eskom presented plans to ensure that the risk of load-shedding would be eliminated during the holiday period until January 13 2020. Eskom also outlined the risks affecting the national grid,” reads the presidency statement.

“As the minister assigned responsibility for Eskom, Gordhan has accepted Mr Mabuza’s resignation. President Ramaphosa has expressed his gratitude to Mr Mabuza for serving Eskom and the nation during a challenging period and has commended Mr Mabuza for taking responsibility and accepting accountability for events under his leadership.”

In his resignation letter Mabuza apologised saying that Ramaphosa’s promise to the nation on December 9 had been based on plans presented to the president by Eskom.

“We presented plans that I had accepted as the actions that we were going to take to ensure that by January 13 our unplanned capacity load factor is no more than 9,500MW. The risks were equally highlighted. You accepted our plans and on the strength of those plans you announced to the nation that there would be no load-shedding until January 13,” said the letter.

The unplanned capacity load factor is the amount of unplanned plant outages or unexpected breakages of plant and equipment.  

Eskom’s failure to keep the lights on meant that the promise Ramaphosa gave to the nation was not met, he said. “For this, to you Mr President, the deputy president and the minister (Gordhan) I apologise.”

In response to Mabuza’s resignation, in a statement issued by spokesperson Pule Mabe, the ANC said that it regarded the resignation “as a laudable demonstration of accountability on the part of Mr Mabuza”.

“Eskom plays a critical and strategic role in the SA economy and it is essential that the Eskom board be stabilised as a matter of urgency. Energy security is the single biggest threat to economic growth which requires urgent and decisive action,” it said.

The party also said it was vital that the resolutions taken at its national conference in 2017 regarding state-owned enterprises (SOEs) be implemented by government. “In the resolutions we noted that firm action is required to improve the governance and performance of SOEs by ensuring the appointment of skilled staff and qualified board members, and to protect them from improper interference.”

Further to this, at its last ordinary sitting of the national executive committee (NEC) in December 2019, the ANC’s highest decision-making body called for a comprehensive approach as well as “bold and creative solutions” to address the crises facing many of our SOEs as well as to give effect to the resolutions of the 54th national conference.

“To amplify this point the special NEC convened on the eve of the 108th anniversary agreed to dedicate time towards discussing and pronouncing on immediate measures required to address key challenges confronting SOEs,” the party said.

Implicit in the statement is the suggestion that when the ANC national general council is held later this year, the actions and effectiveness of members of the executive — in particular Gordhan — to turn SOEs around will come under close scrutiny.

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