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BEI2020: Avoid using Eskom as ‘political football’, says Sipho Pityana

Busa president Sipho Pityana, at BEI2020 in Sandton Johannesburg, said that the Eskom crisis can no longer handle political interference.


Image via: @GovernmentZA Twitter

While business leaders and politicians gathered at the second Business Economic Indaba (BEI2020) in Sandton on Tuesday 14 January, Business Unity South Africa (Busa) president Sipho Pityana said that the Eskom crisis can no longer be used as a “political football”.

According to SABC News, President Cyril Ramaphosa — who was expected to deliver the keynote address in which he would discuss concerns around cash-strapped state-owned entities such as Eskom — heeded to the call and said that the government will work to decentralise state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and reduce political interference.

What is the Business Economic Indaba meant to achieve? 

This year’s economic indaba’s theme, “Activating Actual Outcomes”, is aimed at developing new partnerships to rescue South Africa’s battered economy.

Business Unity South Africa will be hosting the indaba in a concerted effort to mobilise collective business endeavours to improve the repositioning of the economy and strengthen the working relationship with the government on key challenges facing the economy.

Eskom leadership appointments caught up in ANC battles

Pityana did not hold back on Tuesday saying that business is deeply concerned by suggestions that leadership appointment considerations might be caught up in ANC factional battles.

It was then that he added that avoiding the Eskom crisis as a ‘political football’ is crucial. 

“Evidenced by the attack on minister Gordhan and the new-found passion in some quarters for moving Eskom out of the public enterprise’s portfolio,” and to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, he added. 

Eskom to be decentralised, says Ramaphosa 

Ramaphosa at BEI2020, said the government is prepared to work with corporate South Africa to turn the country’s ailing economy around.

In agreeance with Pityana, he said the restructuring process at Eskom would ensure the proposed decentralisation of the business. Ramaphosa added that one of the resolutions at the governing party’s latest policy conference was to reduce political interference at SOEs.

“We have a CEO (André de Ruyter) who is paying attention to the issues. Eskom, which is a major issue for you (the business community), will be addressed,” said Ramaphosa on Tuesday.

Responding to proposals made by business working groups on how to address some of the country’s economic challenges, Ramaphosa conceded that greater technical support is key to fixing some of the problems at Eskom.

Chief Executive at Exxaro Resources Mxolisi Mgojo said Eskom is going to be the death-nail of the mining industry.

Mgojo said: “Without fixing Eskom, we don’t have a mining industry, so it is as dire as that… we cannot operate or invest in an environment like that.”

Eskom lacking ‘leadership certainty’ 

Pityana said that the business world would like to see leadership certainty at Eskom. He says energy security is key in rebuilding the country’s economy and it will take a strong leadership team to fix the challenges currently facing the power utility.

“There have been solutions that have been put on the table around restructuring Eskom by the technical task team which has been appointed by the President and the board. We would like to know how that is being pursued,” asked Pityana. 

“There have always been issues about the capacity of the board from a point of view of size but there are very good skills on that board, but we think that it can be enhanced. There must be leadership certainty on that board,” added Pityana.

The working groups at the business economic indaba further proposed for the urgent implementation of the Eskom Roadmap and for the development of a single long term comprehensive energy plan that is directly within the presidency.

Watch: Ramaphosa addresses economic crisis

Who was in attendance at BEI2020? 

Prominent business leaders, including those from Busa-affiliated business associations, chairpersons and CEOs of blue-chip corporates, local and international partners and associates, will be in attendance.

Ramaphosa, Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Energy and Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi will be in attendance with the aim to better shape South Africa in 2020.