Eskom’s crisis is captured in the fact that it is employing more staff to sell less electricity than was the case 10 years ago. With a workforce of 48,628 in 2017/2018, Eskom produced 232,803GWh of electricity; a decade ago it had 35,404 employees who produced 247,773GWh. The utility’s integrated annual reports reveal several causes of the current predicament, including decreased productivity; an inflated wage bill; a bloated workforce; and rising debt (currently more than double Eskom’s revenue). These problems have culminated in rolling blackouts and frequent load-shedding, which represent a systemic risk to the economy. According to the World Bank, Eskom is overstaffed by 66% and requires only 14,244 employees to operate optimally. Moreover, its wage bill for 2018/2019 is estimated to be R27.14bn (R5.14bn in 1998). This follows a 7.5% wage increase in 2018, after fraught negotiations between the Eskom board — which initially opposed any increase — and the unions. In addition to a...

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