Speaking in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in Cape Town yesterday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said instead they were looking at striking “smart partnerships”, while the state would continue to exercise control over the utility.
This appeared to be the same position favoured by ANC ally the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).
In an interview with The Citizen last week, Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said while they were opposed to any form of Eskom privatisation they were not against the involvement of the private sector as long as the state was leading at the utility.
Ramaphosa said Eskom would remain the main power generator and the state would continue to play a central role in the power distribution, but there would be partnerships with the private sector.
“We will be able to modernise and embrace the new technology in the process,” he said.
“We should also participate in climate change technology. Eskom must play a role in climate change technology… Eskom is too big to fail.”
The private sector would have to play a role in various aspects of energy generation due to their technology know-how.
It would be engaged to enable the state entity to participate in new technologies, including climate change technology.
Ramaphosa, who was answering questions in the NCOP, stressed that instead of being privatised, Eskom would be restructured into three entities focusing on generation, transmission and generation.
Already the SOE was competing with other players in power generation while some municipalities served as distributors of electricity.
The president said the state would continue to play a role in distribution.
Asked by DA member Makashule Gana whether there was a plan to sell some of the coal-fired power stations, Ramaphosa confirmed some stations had reached the end of their lifespans and might need to be decommissioned.
“The National Treasury proposal was that we should consider selling off some of the power stations,” he said.
“We have to decommission a number of power stations … but we might have another challenge to deal with the ramifications of the closure of the power stations.”
He said the question that needed to be addressed was what should be done about the plight of the mineworkers and the economy of the towns where the stations were situated.
The government would not like to see the areas affected becoming “ghost towns”.
Instead the government was hoping for bold entrepreneurs to come forward with an idea to revive the stations, renew the local economy and continue to provide jobs to the locals.
He said it was not the time to point fingers on Eskom but to work together to find a solution to its problems.
Instead of criticising his government, people should applaud it for the efforts it made to turn the utility around.
“They should applaud because there was light at the end of the tunnel. We are going to augment the Eskom board, deal with technical aspects and payments and the process to hire a new group CEO was under way,” Ramaphosa said. – firstname.lastname@example.org