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Eskom crisis takes centre stage at #SONADebate

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File photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters.

PARLIAMENT – South Africa's energy woes which this week led to the country being plunged into darkness dominated the debate on President Cyril Ramphosa's state of the nation address on Tuesday as MPs decried the state of power supply in the country.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane mocked the president for repeatedly using the phrase "watch this space".

He charged: "That is all you've been doing for the past decade and it's all you've been doing for your entire first year in office. Watching and waiting. You've been watching this space as youth unemployment grew to include more than half our young people.

"You've been watching this space as Eskom fell apart, threatening to plunge our country into a crisis we may never recover from."

Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan told MPs the two newest coal-fired power stations built to rescue the country from an energy supply shortage were not up to standard.

He said an audit of power stations would be done to get to the bottom of power station outages.

"The first point we need to tell the public … is that Medupe and Kusile were badly designed and badly constructed and are not performing at optimum levels," Gordhan said.

"I had various interactions today [Tuesday] and we're beginning to see where the problems are … but we've also taken new initiatives where the board and myself have agreed we're going to bring in external power station engineers, have an independent audit of exactly what is going on so that we put Eskom back on track…."

Gordhan also lashed out at critics of President Cyril Ramaphosa, denying that unbundling Eskom meant the power utility would be privatised.

Earlier, Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema had warned Ramaphosa against any plans to privatise the power utility.

He was responding to Ramaphosa's announcement that Eskom would split into three separate entities – "generation, transmission and distribution – under Eskom Holdings".

"You will soon become the enemy of the people and workers if you go ahead with some of the proposals.

“Eskom will not be privatised and there are no retrenchments that are going to take place," Malema warned Ramaphosa

Malema accused the president of using Eskom to further the business interests of friends and allies.

African News Agency (ANA)

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