Eskom Debt Relief: Bailout Should Be State’s Last Dance With Power Utility

GOOD Speech by Brett Herron,
GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament

25 May 2023

Note to editor: This is the speech that was delivered by GOOD Secretary-General and Member of Parliament, Brett Herron, during today’s debate on the Eskom Relief Bill.

If we could generate power from the conspiracy theories for Eskom’s malperformance the electricity facility would be generating a surplus of energy.
Among the leading conspiracies presently doing the rounds is that Eskom is being deliberately taken down to clear the path for privatisation of the electricity sector.
Another theory is that the meltdown is due to rival ruling party factions who will stop at nothing, not even sabotage, to win access to the resources the behemoth company generates.
These theories effectively accord higher meaning to what many simply see as the consequences of systemic incompetence and corruption.
This enormous bailout bill should be the state’s last dance with Eskom. It must be regarded as Eskom’s final opportunity to demonstrate it has the capacity to use taxpayer’s money to fulfill its basic purpose to supply electricity.
The bill seeks to provide another new dawn for Eskom, in the context of a nation that is understandably cynical about what another new dawn will really bring.
It promises to relieve Eskom of debt and provide the SOE with necessary financial support. It’s contentious, but Eskom won’t survive without it.
Easing its debt burden will enable the company to operate in a more stable financial environment, and by releasing shares the company can ensure that the loan repayment structure doesn’t collapse.
The injection of cash will also provide the SOE with the funds necessary to repair crumbling infrastructure that is presently placing the country on the edge of economic collapse.
That’s the theory. Should the funds be squandered, the State will have no option but to abandon Eskom and pursue alternative models.
We fully comprehend the benefits of state ownership of the electricity sector in a developmental state characterized by radical inequality. But there are no actual benefits of state ownership if those in charge lack the skills or integrity to keep the lights on.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost to loadshedding, compounding the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost to Covid. The situation requires urgent action even if that action is not flawless.
We must use this bill to its true potential, monitor expenditure, ensure anti-corruption practices are followed, and the path is cleared for our meaningful transition to renewable energy.
If we don’t achieve these aims we’ll be digging a long-term hole that the likes of the those pushing the Karpowership deal, who are ready to shelve our environmental responsibilities, will be quick to exploit.
We support this Bill on the basis that there is a need for us to best use the assets we currently have at our disposal rather than seeking expensive and inefficient alternatives.
We support the bill with wide open eyes to monitor every move the SOE makes.

Media Enquiries:

Brett Herron, GOOD Secretary-General & Member of Parliament
Cell: 082 518 3264

Janke Tolmay, GOOD Media Manager
Cell: 073 367 1223