Debate on Eskom energy crisis by Cde Zukiswa Rantho in the National Assembly

21 February 2019

Honourable Chairperson, Honourable Members

While listening to the Home Run show anchored by veteran journalist Ernest Pillay on SAFM radio yesterday afternoon, a certain gentleman called in and said something simple, yet very profound. This caller said in times of crisis in State institutions, we must allow those vested with Executive authority, the President and Cabinet, to take tough decisions. As citizens we can then judge them on the correctness or otherwise of their decisions. He said he was happy that the Minister of Finance took responsibility to set out policy measures to lead our country out of the difficult economic state of affairs in his inaugural budget speech.

Our debates in this house and generally among ourselves as South Africans have become extremely polarised. Even when we are confronted with crisis, we have a tendency to seek to apportion blame, instead of asking ourselves what we can do collectively to find workable solutions. The media also fans the flames because controversy and public spats sell more than cooperation and patriotic action motivated by the love for our country and its people.

I would like to ask that we pause for just one second and reflect. About three months ago, on Thursday 29th November 2018 to be precise, I stood at this very podium and presented a report of the oversight inquiry of the Portfolio Committee on Eskom. As members of this house we unanimously accepted the report, particularly its findings and recommendations. The whole country cheered our team for our extraordinary effort to hold accountable those who had driven Eskom to the brink of collapse.

Today, perhaps motivated by the desire to capture the attention of voters, the tone of our debate is very different. Gone is the spirit of cooperation and patriotism. I would argue that this has opened the way for the most discredited individuals to crawl from where they have been hiding to express their uninformed and misleading opinions.

In our inquiry report, we urged the Shareholder and Board of Directors to take decisive action to clean up Eskom and improve its financial position. We also named a number of individuals who had been involved in the state capture project and asked the Zondo Commission to investigate further the roles they played in the corruption and capture of our only power utility. Thankfully the Commission is doing that as we speak. One of the individuals who must go there is the loyal servant of the Guptas, Matshela Koko.

Let me remind South Africans that Koko was caught out twice lying on national television; first denying that he signed a document authorising the prepayment agreement of almost R600 million to Gupta-owned Tegeta; and second claiming that he was not aware that his stepdaughter's company had scored a contract worth R1 billion at Eskom. Today, the same Koko is very outspoken on Twitter, projecting himself as an expert on Eskom matters. What is worse is that Koko, who is possibly a criminal, has been given a platform even by our radio stations to rubbish the current leadership of Eskom. This would be a very good joke, if the circumstances were not so tragic.

Honourable Chairperson,

Let me emphasise this point: it is the role and duty of the Minister of Public Enterprises as the Shareholder representative to oversee the Boards and management of SOCs in the best interests of our country. If the Minister fails to account frankly and honestly to Parliament about the state of Eskom and its recovery plans, we will judge him harshly, as we have done with some of his predecessors.

Our role as Parliament is to exercise effective oversight over the Executive in terms our constitutional and democratic mandate. There is no doubt that, as the President and Finance Minister have said, drastic measures need to be taken to set Eskom and other SOCs on a new and sustainable trajectory. We therefore call on all our business people, lenders, organised workers and communities to be part of a constructive national debate to find lasting solutions to the Eskom crisis. We call on the Minister and government to ensure that our people, particularly the working class and the poor, will benefit from the reconfiguration of State-owned enterprises.

Singu Mbutho Wesizwe, sifuna ukukhumbuza uluntu ukuba sithi abantu ababekhokhela uphando kwimiba ka-Eskom sisebenzisana nogxa bethu beminye imibutho.

Sicela imibutho yabasebenzi isondele kufutshane neNdlu Yowiso Mthetho yesizwe sishukuxe le miba idla umzi. Sicela uRhulumente asondele kubasebenzi nabahlali kuboniswane, side sifumane isisombululo kule ngxuba-kaxaka. Akusincedi nganto ukuba sithukane emoyeni senze nezigrogriso.

URhulumente wethu uxhasa inkqubo yokuvelisa amandla ombane ngobuchule nobuchwephesha bale mihla. Obu buchule busenza sikwazi ukusindleka uluntu ngeenkonzo zombane ococekileyo. Lo manyathelo enza ukuba ikamva labantwana bethu liqaqambe kuba kwehla ungcoliseko lomoya namanzi.

Siyacela kurhulumente ukuba awusele iliso umba wabahlali beedolophu ezifana nooLephalale, Witbank, Ermelo, Secunda nezinye apho uqoqosho oluxhamlisa izigidi zabantu bakuthi luxhomekeke kwimigodi yamalahle. Yiyo le nto sikhuthazeka xa sibona abantu abatsha befumana uqeqesho kwizifundo zobungcali khon'ukuze bakwazi ukwenza le misebenzi mitsha kwicandelo lophehlo lwamandla ombane.

The development of green and clean technologies is unavoidable as part of our transition from coal-based electricity and energy intensive industries that were built around the affordable and abundant supply of coal. Our choices, however, must not create ghost towns in regions where working families depend on coal mines for jobs. That is why we call on government and the private sector to facilitate a just transition to green technologies.

In conclusion, I wish to appeal to Team South Africa in this house and out there that we need to work together during this time to find solutions. If we fail, future generations will never forgive us.

I Thank you.

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