Amid growing calls for Eskom chief executive officer (CEO) André De Ruyter and the utility’s board to resign over the country’s load shedding crisis, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday said it did not support calls for Eskom’s management to step down as yet.
Cosatu, which is in an alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), says it is demanding answers from the embattled power utility before it takes a stance on De Ruyter and the board’s fate at Eskom.
Eskom implemented rolling power cuts for the rest of this week due to generation capacity shortages. Stage 4 load shedding is expected to last until 5am on Friday, and thereafter, stage 2 will continue until 5pm on Saturday.
While they were concerned about load shedding, Cosatu’s general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali on Tuesday said they were not sure whether bringing in new management at Eskom would bring to a halt South Africa’s power crisis.
“I think we need to appreciate that we are in a very difficult situation in terms of the energy security supply. We’re losing businesses and workers are retrenched… changing the leadership – will it bring a new direction [at Eskom]? We don’t know.
“What we are interested to know first is the extent of the problem and what is lacking. Is it the resources or skills? We hope that during this period the management and the board should be able to tell us before we just ask them to leave,” Ntshalintshali said in an interview with eNCA.
He said while the Black Business Council (BBC) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had called for heads to roll at Eskom, Cosatu “appreciated” that De Ruyter had previously told the nation that load shedding would take time to resolve.
But Ntshalintshali said they wanted a report from Eskom on what was causing the latest bout of power cuts. He said Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC), which is meeting, would discuss the load shedding crisis.
“… We’re very worried and we’re saying maybe he does not know what he [De Ruyter] is doing,” Ntshalintshali said.
“Cosatu has not come to the conclusion that just by changing the leadership we’re going to be out of the problem.
“Sometimes it’s very difficult during a crisis to bring in new people who are going to take time to even understand the problem. So, we are not there as yet but that does not mean we are not going to discuss it.”
Ntshalintshali said Cosatu agreed that money from the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) should be made available to assist Eskom with its generation capacity shortages.
“But we don’t know really what might be the problem now,” he said.
Ntshalintshali added that they were worried that there might people who are benefiting from the load shedding, especially with regards to Eskom’s open cycle gas turbine generators, which burn diesel to keep the lights on when there are power cuts.
“We don’t want shortcuts. Normally when things are happening this way they usually go for the diesel route, which is very expensive, and sometimes we even think of some type of corruption…
“We must express that there are people who are benefiting out of the crisis,” Ntshalintshali said.
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