Mbeki takes Eskom blame

South African President Thabo Mbeki met with the management of the state power utility Eskom on Sunday to discuss a power crisis which has seen blackouts imposed on daily basis in the last fortnight.

“They briefed the president on the nature of the problem, its extent and what it is they want to do to ameliorate the situation,” presidential spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga told the Sapa news agency after the talks.

The power cuts have affected everything from factory production and mining operations to traffic lights, with some estimates putting the overall cost to business so far at beyond R2bn (US$280m).

A spokesperson for Eskom said earlier the company was considering rationing electricity supplies as an alternative to the daily power cuts, and that it had stopped supplying to neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Mbeki admitted last month his government should have heeded pleas by Eskom several years ago to invest more in electricity generation to keep up with the country’s economic growth.

“When Eskom said to the government: ‘We think we must invest more in terms of electricity generation’, we said no, but all you will be doing is just to build excess capacity,” he said in a speech.

“We said not now, later. We were wrong. Eskom was right. We were wrong.”

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Mbeki takes Eskom blame