Mantashe likens Eskom loadshedding to “agitating to overthrow the state”

Gwede Mantashe, mines and energy minister, South Africa

GWEDE Mantashe, South African mines and energy minister, likened the continued failings at the government-owned power utility, Eskom to an attempted coup of his government.

Quoted in a report by BusinessLive, Mantashe said Eskom loadshedding was now doing more harm to South Africa’s economy — through loadshedding — than had been perpetrated by state capture. He didn’t reference the fact that looting of government-owned companies during the ‘state capture’ years, including Eskom, is a cause of their failure.

Eskom was running at very low energy availability factors (EAFs), a measure of electricity output compared with installed capacity, said BusinessLive, citing Mantashe. At best, said Mantashe, Eskom was achieving output of 26,000MW or an EAF of about 60%.

He concluded: “Eskom must attend to this problem. By not attending to load-shedding Eskom is agitating to overthrow the state”. Mantashe was speaking a signing ceremony for winning bidders in round five of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme in Pretoria.

Loadshedding posed the greatest challenge to growth, followed by the disruptions to rail services operated by Transnet and high levels of crime, he said. “In [the third quarter] our GDP grew 1.6%. This could have been 3%, but because of load-shedding the economy can’t move,” Mantashe said.

Power plant breakdowns at Eskom are at the highest in at least a year, affecting two-fifths of generation capacity and exacerbating outages that are hindering economic growth, said Bloomberg News in an article on Wednesday.

Eskom announced stage 6 loadshedding because breakdowns had taken 19,052MW of generation capacity out of action.