The South African government and Eskom’s promises that by now load-shedding would be a thing of the past have not come to fruition, with rotational power cuts increasing in intensity rather than winding down.
Both Cyril Ramaphosa — then deputy president to Jacob Zuma — and Eskom CEO André de Ruyter promised that load-shedding would no longer be a reality by now.
Notably, Ramaphosa’s empty promise came while responding to questions from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) in September 2015, where he said load-shedding would be over by September 2017 at the latest.
“In another 18 months to two years, you will forget the challenges that we had with relation to power or energy and Eskom ever existed,” he said.
It is now seven years down the line, and South Africa’s energy issues are worse than ever.
However, Ramaphosa’s false promises didn’t there.
In his “From the Desk of the President” newsletter on 30 September 2019, Ramaphosa said, “a clear strategy to place Eskom on a sustainable path of recovery” was being finalised.
Ramaphosa announced the plan during his State of the Nation address on 13 February 2020, but he has not followed through.
Efforts to procure emergency energy supplies within 3–12 months, rapidly build renewable power plants, and divide Eskom into three operating entities have been plagued by delays due to incompetence and allegations of corruption.
Shortly after taking the top job at Eskom, De Ruyter, although more measured than Ramaphosa, told the media that Eskom would “significantly reduce” load-shedding from September 2021.
He explained that the power utility was ramping up its maintenance plans, meaning South Africans would experience more load-shedding in the interim.
“We anticipate the maintenance programme will go on for about a period of 18 months,” he said.
Eskom spokesperson Sikhonathi Mantshantsha, in December 2020, said South Africa would be at a high risk of load-shedding until September 2021.
“There will be a high risk of load shedding going all the way to September next year,” he said.
However, what followed were the two worst load-shedding years in the power utility’s history.
Eskom’s “comprehensive maintenance plan” promised in February 2020 didn’t do much to improve South Africa’s power situation.
South Africa’s plan to fix Eskom and end load-shedding
Ramaphosa announced several measures government would implement to fix Eskom and end load-shedding during a national address on Monday, 25 July 2022.
“As government, we are announcing a number of interventions to overcome the immediate crisis,” he said.
The interventions include steps to improve Eskom’s generation capacity through increased maintenance, removing barriers to private power investment, and exploring new legislation to regulate private generation projects.
The plan also involved bringing skilled engineers back to the ailing power utility.
“One of the challenges that Eskom has faced has been the shortage of skilled personnel and engineers,” Ramaphosa said.
“The utility is now recruiting skilled personnel, including forming Eskom senior plant managers and engineers from the private sector.”
To this end, Eskom recently appointed 18 people from a list of 300 “turnaround agents” submitted to the power utility by Solidarity.
Ramaphosa also announced the removal of the embedded generation threshold to help add more capacity to the grid.
MyBroadband asked Eskom and The Presidency for comment on the empty promises, but they had not answered our questions by the time of publication.