CRITICAL COMMENT

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Eskom

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The best way to deal with the Eskom crisis is to set up a full scale judicial commission of inquiry to find out what went wrong and how to fix it, says the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“We are getting so many conflicting stories, allegations and denials that the only way to find the truth is to hand the job to a judge assisted by independent technical and managerial experts,” said Ms Janine Myburgh, President of the Chamber.

“My heart goes out to Lynne Brown. She has inherited an ongoing disaster and she will not be getting many straight answers from those involved. We need to get to the bottom of the mess because there are important lessons to learn and apply to some of the other failing State businesses.”

An inquiry would also be the best way to hold accountable those who had made the bad decisions or who had failed to make any decisions at all.

Ms Myburgh said the first step should be to stop the voluntary retrenchment process. “Voluntary retrenchment is the easy way to reduce numbers but it is also the worst way. It will ensure that some of the best qualified but most frustrated members of staff take the package and go. This will bleed Eskom of skilled hands and minds that it desperately needs.”

Only a proper staff reduction scheme aimed at getting rid of the “talkers” while retaining the “doers” would produce the desired results. A thorough check of staff qualifications would also help.

Mr Peter Haylett, chairman of the Chamber’s Industrial Focus Portfolio Committee, said that among the things to be investigated were:

  • The neglect of essential maintenance work
  • Eskom’s coal purchases and coal transport
  • Eskom’s extensive use of labour brokers and the huge mark-up on the staff they supplied
  • The construction and other contracts for the new power stations
  • Eskom’s rejection of the Mmamabula power station in Botswana which would have provided cheap power and furthered regional co-operation
  • Eskom’s refusal to consider offers to provide gas power stations
  • The massive golden handshakes for Eskom’s failed executives

Mr Haylett said that a commission of inquiry should also look into political interference in decision-making and the recent last-minute rejection of the views of technical experts on the contract for Koeberg steam generators.

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