electrical outage

South Africa: Eskom’s slide from first-in-class to murderous dysfunction   

By Jon Marks, Jon Marks

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Posted on February 14, 2023 12:35


South Africa’s electric utility company Eskom, once a powerhouse of the country, has declined dramatically as it suffers from recurring financial problems and corruption, leaving many of its customers in the dark. Yet more failed attempts to tackle the Eskom crisis could play a big part in collapsing the ANC vote when South Africa goes to the polls in 2024. So how did it come to this and what does history tell us about the steps needed for Africa’s largest economy to emerge from its electricity supply crisis – in order to exit what critics fear is Eskom’s death spiral?

Only four years after apartheid’s white minority rule fell, South Africa in 1998 produced a new White Paper on Energy Policy that was set to endow its power industry with a state-of-the-art (for its time) commercial and governance structure. It would unbundle (split into specialised companies) the giant state utility Eskom, whose size and technical capacity, and ability to deliver infrastructure, meant the national champion was rated among the world’s top four power companies.

Fast-forward 25 years, during which Eskom has declined from continental powerhouse to floundering in an ever more severe crisis. South African consumers have been condemned to rolling blackouts and onerous debts; all of which have shaved percentage points off the gross domestic product (GDP).

So grave are Eskom’s financial problems that Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana – backed by key power-broker Minerals and

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