Government is reviving a so-called energy “war room” to tackle the nation’s electricity crisis, as it brought forward the date when the incoming CEO of the state power utility will start work.
The team, to be headed by deputy President David Mabuza, will seek to avoid a repeat of a nine-day blackout earlier this month that risks tipping the economy into recession. Debt-ridden Eskom is struggling to meet demand for electricity because of its failure to properly maintain ageing plants and invest in new ones.
In addition to Mabuza, the war room will consist of finance minister Tito Mboweni, energy minister Gwede Mantashe and public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu told reporters at a cabinet briefing on Tuesday in Pretoria.
“The team will deal with any challenges to our energy supply in the country,” he said.
The government previously established a war room in December 2014 to deal with electricity shortages that contributed to an economic contraction in the second quarter of the following year. That team was tasked with improving power maintenance and debt-collection processes.
The cabinet also mandated Gordhan to negotiate with incoming CEO André de Ruyter, who is scheduled to start on 15 January, to take up the position earlier.
A spokesman for the department of public enterprises didn’t immediately comment on the CEO starting early. No one was available at Mabuza’s office for comment.
“De Ruyter, together with his management team, will immediately deal with the concerning issues of governance, lack of financial management as well as stabilise the operations of Eskom,” Mthembu said. “This includes dealing with the huge backlog of maintenance of the ageing fleet of their power stations and the structural defects” at other plants, he said. — Reported by Paul Vecchiatto, with assistance from Paul Burkhardt, (c) 2019 Bloomberg LP