Eskom not for sale, Mbalula assures ANC

The ANC’s top seven officials have summoned Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to explain the furore around the “sale” of state-owned power utility Eskom’s assets.

This follows Gordhan’s leaked letter to Eskom chairman Mpho Makwana, informing him he has approved the “sale” of the power utility’s
distribution arm to a new state company.

The usage of the word “sale” exposed deep mistrust in the ANC rank and file towards the party’s deployees in government. This because in the aftermath of the leak, agitated members confronted the governing party’s top brass in Luthuli House in protest against the approval of the “sale”.

Those alarmed alleged the party risked betraying its national conference resolutions on Eskom as a strategic asset that should remain in the hands of the state.

At the last national conference, the ANC’s grassroots members endorsed the unbundling of Eskom into separate generation, transmission and distribution entities, according to party resolutions.

This was meant to address loadshedding, which has crippled the country’s ailing economy and frustrated citizens.

Tomorrow’s meeting would seek to find solution to undo any possible reputational damage to the governing party and policy confusion ahead of next year’s general elections.

ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula said on Friday that Eskom was not for sale.

“It’s the unbundling process, which we’ve long agreed on,” Mbalula said.

“There is nothing new about it, but people are picking on Pravin to drive the narrative that Eskom is being sold. There is no selling involved.”

Mbalula confirmed the top seven officials will meet with Gordhan tomorrow to discuss the matter.

“After that, I will be able to comment extensively,” Mbalula said.

Among those targeted to drive the fury against Gordhan is ANC chairman Gwede Mantashe, who is also minister of mineral resources and energy.

Last December, ANC national conference delegates resolved that Eskom should be moved from Gordhan and be housed under Mantashe.

But Ramaphosa ignored the resolution and instead appointed Kgosientsho Ramokgopa as electricity minister – a move that was seen as Mantashe emasculation.

This week, Mantashe’s office could neither confirm nor deny a circulating WhatsApp message bearing his name as the recipient of a complaint against Gordhan.

The sender argued that talk of the “sale” of Eskom’s distribution was not canvassed through public consultations, including in parliament.

A Mantashe sympathiser said there were attempts to use him as the face of the anti-Gordhan offensive.

“He is known to be vocal about energy policy, but the scheme will fail,” said the ally.

Mantashe could not be reached for comment.

Gordhan’s spokesperson, Ellis Mnyandu, said the misinterpretation of the leaked technical letter to Eskom was mischievous propaganda.

Mnyandu said Ramaphosa pronounced on Eskom restructuring in 2019.

Currently, he said, Eskom Holdings owns all generation, transmission and distribution assets, which are 100% owned by the state.

In the reform plan, he said, the three separate companies devoted to generation, transmission and distribution businesses would also be 100% state owned.

“In order to implement the above, the corresponding assets need to be transferred from Eskom Holdings to each of the new companies.”

The transfer process required approval under the Public Finance Management Act, with the consent of the ministers of finance and public enterprises.

Mnyandu said: “The letter to the board contains the consent of the minister of public enterprises for the transfer of assets from the holding company to the newly established distribution company.”

He said further work still needed to be done and agreed upon in relation to the business and financial model of the newly established distribution company.

The public needed to be mindful that there were many vested interests who seemed intent on undermining energy security and the restructuring process, he said.

“This is through misinformation and deliberate distortions aimed at undermining public confidence in the process. “This is not in South Africa’s interests,” said Mnyandu.

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said: “It is not a sale to private hands or a sale of Eskom.

“It’s an unbundling or restructuring process.

“The state will still retain 100% control of the three stand alone entities.”

Minister in the Presidency Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said the mention of the word “sale”was a technical requirement in company law.

She said a reference to the “transfer” of assets would trigger a donation tax.

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