Hilary Joffe Columnist

To what problem is a restructuring of Eskom's debt the supposed solution? And would any of the variants floated be the answer to our Eskom crisis? With Cosatu proposing to bring workers' pension money to the table and President Cyril Ramaphosa talking special purpose vehicles (SPVs) as he makes approving noises about an imminent social compact on Eskom, clarity on what everyone means is ever more important — and ever more elusive. And the danger grows that the obsession with the debt just distracts from dealing with the real and difficult operational issues at the heart of the power crisis.

The arithmetic is simple. Eskom has R454bn of debt it cannot afford to service: in the six months to September its cash flow from operations was R19bn, far short of the R30bn it spent paying the interest on its debt and paying back debt that fell due. The gap will be even wider for the full financial year.

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