Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan
By John Fraser
The systemic and ruthless destruction of state utility Eskom on Jacob Zuma’s watch was laid bare this week by Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, who claims as many as half of all breakdowns are related to human failures, and therefore not to mechanical factors.
He was addressing a business forum in Johannesburg, organised by Business Unity South Africa (BUSA).
Gordhan told a panel discussion that the crisis at Eskom means that it needs funding of R420bn.
“SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) are in difficulty, particularly those at heart of state capture. They became operationally weak,” he noted, referring back to Jacob Zuma’s kleptocratic reign.
“Incompetent people were put in place, for example at Eskom power stations,” Gordhan stated.
He said he has been told 40% of Eskom breakdowns are a result of the human factor. “I believe it is 50%,” he warned. And he speculated that some of the actions may be deliberate.
He said of the state-owned enterprises that in SA, following the Zuma years we “are left with a bit of a disaster. We need governance, the right management. We might need outsiders to give us the technical input we require.”
“We need to get them generating more revenue, to make them more viable.”
He confirmed a major restructuring of Eskom is underway, and the question of whether Eskom is unbundled into three is being discussed.
“We need very fast movement.”
In a later BUSA conference session, President Cyril Ramaphosa hit out at Zuma.
“Our SOEs are not behaving as they should be. We are in a messy situation,” he stated.
“We have a mechanism which is ferreting (corruption) out. After that, there has to be real, serious action.”
Without naming Zuma, he said: “there is a notion there are people who will fight back, as they will. They are going to resist. And so must we.
“We should not be defined by acts of corruption which have gone out of kilter with our values.
“Transparency International says (in a recent report) we are one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This is the last time.”
He said of the Zuma years that “unfortunately in the last 9 years or so, policy was almost done on the hoof. This led to policy uncertainty and inconsistency.
“The state has been denuded of good people, who gave it all up and left. Some have been hounded out. The state has been weakened severely.
“That is why we need to cooperate between business and the state. We need to put all hands of South Africans on deck.”
It was reported, Wednesday, that Zuma had hit back at Ramaphosa, which confirms the mammoth task facing the new-broom regime which is now attempting to turn around the economy.
Ramaphosa also met business leaders in a separate engagement, and there was agreement on a sector-by-sector approach to reviving economic growth.
“Business people and ministers are beginning to imagine a South Africa which will have a 5% and a 7% growth,” the President cheered.
“They are looking at sectors, which for me is the holy grail we should all aspire to touch. That is where we want to be.
“They tell me: we want the government to deal with the inhibitors. I found that enormously uplifting.
“This is a no-brainer. We must remove the inhibitors for growth. South Africa must go and grasp that high growth. South Africa is on the runway. Let’s take off. ”
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