It takes some reckoning to see how close Eskom has pushed the entire government to the brink of financial collapse. This is no piddling South African Airways (SAA) or SABC. The Eskom balance sheet is 33 times the size of both of those parastatals combined. Eskom imploding would be similar to 42 SAAs or 146 SABCs collapsing simultaneously. In March 2017, Eskom owed lenders R355.4bn. Of that, R254bn is guaranteed by central government. Such numbers on their own are meaningless. But consider that the public-sector borrowing requirement for the past financial year was also R254bn and it becomes clear that a call on the Eskom guarantees would double the budget deficit. That would push the borrowing requirement from 5.8% of GDP to 11.6%. That could be raised only by massively increasing interest rates. The economic fallout would be catastrophic and rapid. Eskom has to meet coupon payments on several of its issued bonds at the end of this week. By my calculations, it is due to pay about R8...

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