IN the week that Eskom announced the historic stage 4 load-shedding and bumbled from one excuse to another, our leaders converged in the National Assembly last week Monday in what was supposed to be a response to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of of the nation address (SONA).
When we expected them to represent the public who had, since last October or so, been in darkness while businesses lost millions of rands through load-shedding, their preoccupation was with who snitched on who some forty years ago when they still cared about “our people”. SA’s energy crisis and details on the President’s announcement of unbundling Eskom and what it means for jobs, and it’s massive debt of R419billion, should have been a major priority. But alas…
Led by COPE’s Terror Lekota who claimed Ramaphosa had sold-out his comrades to the security police, there were soon other tales of incidents of selling-out comrades. Lekota claimed that Ramaphosa “condemned” him and other student activists to apartheid’s special branch in 1974. Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who leads a public health system which is in tatters, shot back in defence of the President. He pointed to rumours that had been circulating at the time about anti-apartheid activists that had been arrested for the “Viva Freelimo” rally.
“On June 16 1983, that evening, we called you. We sat together with you and we called senior student activists and we said, ‘Please clarify us on this matter of comrades who sold out during the Frelimo rally and clear or confirm the name, specifically of Ben Langa.’
“We asked you and the answer you gave us was that there’s no such thing. These are smear campaigns by the boers who want to divide us – that’s what you told us. At that time there was no reason for you whatsoever to protect one Cyril Ramaphosa. There was no reason you could have told us about the way he sold out.
“Now, if the boers told you at that time that Ramaphosa sent them a letter and sold out, why didn’t you disclose [this] to us at the time?” Motsoaledi asked as Lekota sat stony-faced at his parliamentary bench.
It wasnt long before leaders of other political parties climbed on the bandwagon, some demanding that an inquiry into sell-outs be held.
The following day, when one thought the President would lead by firmly staying within more pressing issues facing the country, like the energy crisis for example, this was not to be. He too had to give his version of what happened. He denied the accusations of having been an askari. The verdict is still out if he acquitted himself well. His supporters applauded him while his detractors poked holes in his rebuttal. “How did he manage to not squeal on his comrades and still stay out of prison?” they asked. He was never going to win this battle because of his billions amassed from his association with those who made their ill-gotten wealth through apartheid.
The entire week was dominated by the issue of Ramaphosa being a sell-out – all this in the midst of a frustrated citizenry and an already ailing economy buckling under load-shedding.
By the end of the week, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan had used up all the excuses and resorted to blaming the badly designed power stations for load-shedding and announcing that Eskom would be “technically insolvent” by April this year only to amend that statement the following day to say the power utility was “experiencing liquidity problems”.
Together with Eskom, Gordhan had told us how the Eskom leadership under Brian Molefe and thereafter Matshela Koko had looted the power utility in favour of the Guptas. We were told the inferior quality of coal supplied by the Guptas was the problem, then the maintenance wasnt done, then the usage of diesel, and… and…Even the transformation of Eskom’s workforce came into play. It was said that Eskom had shed its white engineers and replaced with blacks, an assertion which was proven untrue. Eskom’s Chairman Jabu Mabuza had in December last year, blamed everyone for load-shedding.
In the meantime the President has announced a ministerial committee to be headed by Deputy President DD Mabuza. This is on top of the Eskom Task Team the President formed at the beginning of last year, the new and clueless Eskom board and executive appointed by the President last year, and the international experts appointed by Gordhan. Only two members of the 16-member Eskom’s board have experience in the energy sector.
Yesterday, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni delivered his Budget Speech. He announced a R69billion bailout for Eskom over the next three years, a pittance compared to what is apparently required to fix the power utility.
In the South Africa of today – where fact and fiction have become increasingly blurred – it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the R23billion per year bailout is more than adequate. We did after all, move from Stage 4 load-shedding to no load-shedding within four days.