The failure of eight power generation units, which plunged the country into stage four load shedding on Monday, has led some to advance the theory that there may be sabotage plot in motion at South Africa’s struggling energy utility, Eskom.
Some believe that Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement, during his second state of the nation address (Sona) last Thursday, that he will be splitting Eskom into three, is causing those who are benefiting from the energy provider’s monopoly, and wish to avoid the split, to fight back.
Others agree there is sabotage taking place, but believe it is not those trying to avoid the splitting of Eskom, but those behind the proposed split who are carrying it out.
According to this version – one which is in line with what union leaders such as Zwelinzima Vavi and Irvin Jim have been saying – Ramaphosa’s plans to split the embattled utility are meant to pave the way towards privatisation.
So in this version, those pushing for the Eskom split, rather than those fighting to prevent it, are the saboteurs.
Whether the theorists believe sabotage is caused by those who are allegedly pushing privatisation or those believed to be fighting against it, Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe does not want to hear it and has shot down the sabotage theories.
“The reason for the load shedding is a technical fault and nothing else,” he said.
Speaking during the Sona, Ramaphosa announced the proposed split.
“To bring credibility to the turnaround and to position South Africa’s power sector for the future, we shall immediately embark on a process of establishing three separate entities – generation, transmission and distribution – under Eskom Holdings,” he said.
As part of an opinion piece in The Sunday Times this past weekend, President Cyril Ramaphosa denied that splitting Eskom into three was about “privatising” the struggling energy utility. Instead, the president said the aim was “balancing operations to make the entity more efficient”.
But in an interview in the same publication, Numsa’s Irvin Jim strongly disagreed, saying his union was preparing to take to the streets in protest over the proposed split, which he said was “not about the future of Eskom” but rather about “preparing” the utility for privatisation.
Saftu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi has echoed these sentiments.
“That is exactly where we are going with this – it is privatisation through the back door. The real reason why we are breaking it up is so that they can weaken it first and then sell it. The IPPs will destroy Eskom’s transmission capacity in this way,” he told The Citizen.
(Additional reporting by Simnikiwe Hlatshaneni and ANA)