In the life of the near 100-year-old electricity giant, Eskom, January 2008 perhaps marks the most critical stage in its development. As the lights went out across various mines in the country while Eskom struggled to meet demand for its product, an expensive and necessary path towards capacity expansion kicked into high gear. Billions of rands later, money spent on two still not complete coal-fired power stations, Medupi in Limpopo and Kusile in Mpumalanga, and a host of renewable projects and flirtations with an expanded nuclear future, the company is in a precarious position, facing a debt burden of about R338-billion — a 1,000-fold increase since 2007. The government and the Treasury, which are custodians of a hobbling domestic economy in recession, are burdened with not only the electricity company but also an airline, SAA, that last reported a profit in the mid-to-late 2000s. Apart from the fundamental weakness of Eskom's balance sheet and those of the other state-owned entiti...

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