FILE PHOTO: A woman carries firewood on her head as she walks below Eskom's electricity pylons in Soweto, South Africa, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A woman carries firewood on her head as she walks below Eskom's electricity pylons in Soweto, South Africa, August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Lukanyo Mnyanda’s column "Next attraction: Saturday Night Half-Live" (March 18) refers.

The despair that all South Africans are feeling regarding the Eskom debacle is patently, painfully clear in Mnyanda’s piece. As he states, it’s been more than a year since Eskom’s board was overhauled and we were promised a new dawn, which would be delivered through committees and task teams.

Now we have stage 4 load shedding.

How do we plan to hold Eskom accountable for the latest disaster? For a start, Nersa granted the power utility a tariff increase in the past month. Eskom will also receive yet more bailouts over the next three years, totalling R69bn. Load shedding is wreaking havoc on the country. Businesses cannot grow, and we will see the effect of Eskom’s failures in  coming months when we read about increased job losses.

The key to the entire crumbling edifice lies in one phrase: “state owned”. Eskom has the backing of the state, and because the government believes that it alone must be in charge of providing for our energy needs, it will not budge on any real, substantial changes.

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s proposed unbundling will not produce better results because all the different parts of Eskom will remain state owned. Where a private energy business would have to account for mistakes to both its shareholders and customers, Eskom needn’t worry about such things — the government will always be there to rescue it from its failures.

As a first step we need competition. Allow other energy producers, whether they use fossil fuels or renewables, to both generate and most importantly distribute electricity to consumers. This will bring at least some nominal release of the pressure on Eskom. Thereafter we can proceed with the privatisation process. Competition will mean a lowering of prices and options for consumers.

Chris Hattingh
Researcher, Free Market Foundation