Cyril Ramaphosa has referred to them as ‘sewers of corruption.’
With gigantic losses recorded each and every year, South Africa’s state-owned enterprises are among the greatest risks to the country’s economy. Our new Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, has recognised this – but so did his predecessor, Nhlanhla Nene, and so did his predecessor before that, Malusi Gigaba.
That’s right. Even somebody as clueless as Gigaba could identify the threats posed by our corrupt, grossly mismanaged SOEs.
In the recently released financial results for last year, South African Airlines revealed losses of R5.7 billion, Prasa R928 million and SABC R622 million. These figures, though enough to give most of us sleepless nights, don’t quite hit home as hard as the situation over at Eskom.
The mismanagement of all SOE’s impacts every single one of us in a myriad of ways, whether you fly SAA or not, whether you watch SABC television or not – but the dire reality of what’s happening with Eskom feels a lot more personal and immediate. We feel it right in our homes, each and every day.
Recording a loss of R4.6 billion last year, Eskom may not be the biggest vampire of them all, but it could certainly be argued that it is the most important. Losing Eskom would be absolutely catastrophic for South Africa.
Under Ramaphosa, the government is now attempting to salvage the energy giant, repair the damage caused during Zuma’s reign and put the company back onto a sustainable path.
Eskom seems to think that the best way to do that is to increase electricity tariffs by 15% each year for the next three consecutive years, even though it is now public knowledge that the company’s workforce is completely bloated and unsustainable.
Before we begin to point and laugh (if only to keep from weeping) at all the holes in that logic, let’s take a look at how this tragedy is playing out.