At a media briefing to explain why load shedding has returned and what Eskom plans to do about it, chairperson and acting CEO Jabu Mabuza responded to a question on whether he is the right person for his job by explaining that he didn’t apply for it and was there due to the decisions of President Cyril Ramaphosa and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“Am I the right person? I would have applied for the job if I had the qualifications and I wanted it, I didn’t apply for this. South Africans and the president and the minister must make the call,” he said.
Mabuza made it clear at the briefing that he didn’t expect or want to end up having to explain the reintroduction of load shedding.
“You have to trust me when I say tonight’s media briefing is not one I’d wished for,” he said, adding that it is not what he would have wanted to have to tell South Africans about as he comes to the end of his tenure as caretaker.
“The decision to implement load shedding is one that we did not take lightly and in effect our objective is to avoid load shedding and if absolutely necessary to do so at as a minimum level as is possible.
“That said, I’d like to take this time to unreservedly apologise to South Africans for the negative impact that our decision to implement load shedding has had on them.
“I also sincerely apologise for the minimal warning we gave you about the challenging situation we found ourselves in this week,” he added.
Later on, he said he wanted to apologise in particular to matriculants – after pupils from several schools had to go home without writing exams – and businesses.
Later, responding to questions, he denied the DA’s claim that Eskom knew that load shedding would happen “and either failed or refused to come clean”.
It was reported in September that the utility said that no load shedding was planned for either September or October, following a statement from the Democratic Alliance (DA) claiming that it had received “reliable information” that Eskom had been warning municipalities that rolling blackouts would soon be upon the country again.
READ MORE: Stage 2 load shedding to continue on Friday
Mabuza denied that Eskom said there would be no load shedding, saying the risk was always there and it has returned due to unforeseen circumstances resulting from a snapped conveyor belt.
“We can never ever say there would be load shedding. There is no way I could have given that guarantee that there would be no load shedding,” he said.
“What I did say was that at the time [was]… we have issued no such communication. We had not communicated that. I was very clear in my mind that the [load shedding] communication had not come out of Eskom.
“This load shedding which has occasioned now – I certainly could not have planned to snap a conveyor belt which is what pushed us over the 10,500MW,” said Mabuza.
Mabuza also made it clear things could be worse.
The decision was made to implement load shedding to “balance supply and demand and protect the system from total collapse,” he said.
“Had we carried on using our emergency reserves, we would have been postponing the inevitable and would have ended up worse off,” saying that we could have ended up “potentially having to load shed at levels which may well have paralysed the economy”.
As he and Gordhan have said before, the biggest issue was maintenance, with Mabuza saying Eskom’s “average power plant is 37 years old” and that they made the decision to build two new ones rather than keep servicing some of the old ones.
He said Eskom did not always “get the time and space to fix old machines” and was suffering from “extreme financial constraints which make this difficult if not impossible”.
At the briefing, Mabuza said they would implement Stage 1 load shedding on Friday, with no planned blackouts expected over the weekend. This has since been escalated to Stage 2, because last night the utility “lost Medupi 3, 4 and 5 due to coal and ash handling issues”.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman.)