Our take: Eskom vs Government: A hot mess

The heated exchange between a parliamentary oversight body and Eskom board member Busisiwe Mavuso is more than just a war of words: it reveals a great deal about the broader issues within the governance of SA’s parastatals. 

Mavuso, who is also the respected CEO of Business Leadership SA, was treated like a naughty schoolgirl when she pushed back against questions by the committee that tried to lay all the blame for SA’s energy crisis at the current leadership’s door. 

Parliament’s finance watchdog, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa), held a meeting with Eskom last Friday after assessing issues at the Medupi and Kusile power stations in light (ha!) of the latest round of load shedding. 

Mavuso told Scopa that the board and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter could not be the “fall guys” for the ANC-led government.            

“The reality of the matter is this is not our mess,” Mavuso was reported to have said. After a critical and annoyed response from Scopa chair Mkhuleko Hlengwa, Mavuso left the meeting. The public enterprises department then laid into her too, describing her conduct as “regrettable” and “unbecoming” for a board member, Business Day reported.

The moment made headlines, with most in Mavuso’s corner. Hlengwa, an IFP MP, has since apologised to Mavuso for handling the situation badly.

The larger issue is that state-owned enterprises like Eskom have long been subject to political interference and poor managerial appointments. A combination of state capture, failure to timeously build new generating capacity, delays in adopting renewable energy and decades of general government mismanagement and interference have all led to the current crisis. 
But the current management team must also account. What is going on with the maintenance we keep hearing about, and why aren’t we seeing results? As Business Day reports: “[De Ruyter] and the board bear responsibility for the fact that the risk has not diminished but increased. But it is also certainly true, as Mavuso said, that the ANC-led government does too.”

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