Business Leadership SA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Business Leadership SA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

In a promising article addressing the bias in the debate about who should bear the burden of economic austerity resulting from the poor state of the SA economy, Steven Friedman makes an incorrect claim to the effect that Eskom board member and Business Leadership SA CEO Busisiwe Mavuso has advocated — in testimony to a parliamentary committee — eight months of load-shedding to improve Eskom’s financial position (“Those demanding job cuts won’t tolerate power cuts”, November 5).

This claim is incorrect, because Business Day reported her as saying that if the board of Eskom could act without interference from the government, and could speak publicly about the dire operational failures of Eskom, she would be honest with the country and announce that, contrary to government’s reassurances, we will be facing another eight months of potential load-shedding.

Her statement was about being honest with the SA public regarding the operational challenges of Eskom, and not about improving Eskom’s financial position by imposing eight months of load-shedding on the country.

The problem with having incorrectly characterised the statement of Busisiwe Mavuso is that the whole logic of the article is undermined. It is not the case that Busisiwe Mavuso, as Business Leadership CEO, and in her role as representative of business, is unwilling the bear the cost of load-shedding while expecting ordinary citizens to bear all the sacrifice. Rather, her case is simply that we, as a country, will face the possibility of load-shedding for at least eight more months, contrary to government’s assurances.

A second problematic feature of the article is that it does not mention the fact that, in response to the refusal of Eskom to increase their wages during the negotiations in July 2018, Eskom workers went on strike and some of them engaged in acts of sabotage that caused almost a month of load-shedding before the government intervened to increase their wages. It is not acceptable, from the point of view of the economy, as well as that of the law, for the country to suffer load-shedding due to Eskom workers’s strikes and acts of sabotage.

Unless, of course, the needs of 46,000 Eskom workers can legitimately override the needs of a country of 56-million citizens. If so, then it is indeed the case, as Steven Friedman suggests, that some groups (Eskom workers, in this instance, rather than the business community) are ready to impose economic sacrifices to the country while not willing to accept any sacrifice on their part.

Maurizio Passerin d’Entreves

Professor Emeritus, UCT

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