Eskom workers promised Christmas bonuses – but who’s going to pay?

 ·13 Nov 2023

During a power station visit last week, electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa promised Eskom staff Christmas bonuses if they continue to work towards keeping the lights on.

At Mpumalanga’s Arnot Power Station – which is operating with an energy availability factor (EAF) of 48% – Ramokgopa told workers on Monday (6 November) that they could expect bonuses if they continued the “good work” keeping the lights on.

“Continue the good work. The better the performance, the better the incentive you will receive in your pockets,” he said.

“Once you give us the kind of progress and energy improvement that we want, you will see that your families will be happy, and you are going to enjoy a better Christmas,” he added.

The promise fails to acknowledge that, despite any current proposals or plans, Eskom staff had already secured a 7% wage increase in June 2023 through negotiations with their employer.

This salary increase was pushed through even though Eskom has reported a massive loss of R23.9 billion for the 2022/23 financial year, exacerbated by a huge escalation in load shedding, mounting municipal debt and skyrocketing losses due to criminal activity.

Over the past year, load shedding escalated severely to 280 days while it spent over R7,000 per MWh to run the gas turbines. Load shedding has also cost businesses, households, and the South African economy billions to stave off the cripple power cuts.

During the session of Parliament’s standing committee for public accounts (Scopa) last week, Scopa chairperson, Mkhuleko Hlengwa of the IFP, criticised Ramokgopa’s promise, and wanted to know how he could promise bonuses to Eskom employees as an incentive to keep the lights on over Christmas.

Hlengwa’s main concern was where Eskom would get the money from.

At the same time, he questioned Ramokgopa’s authority to be promising bonuses in the first place, considering the confusion over which government minister is ultimately responsible for managing the power crisis – Ramokgopa or Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Power struggle

The City Press reported that Parliament’s Scopa brought to light confusion over the roles of Ramokgopa and Gordhan in fixing Eskom.

Responding to questions at a Scopa meeting, Gordhan said Ramokgopa works directly with Eskom’s head of power generation, Bheki Nxumalo, to ensure power stations perform better and implement the presidency’s emergency power plan.

However, one source disputed this, claiming that Ramokgopa’s only way of communicating with Nxumalo is through Gordhan and the Eskom board.

Ramokgopa then allegedly complained about the red tape to the ANC National Working Committee (NWC) last week and said he has no insight into the Eskom board.

Gordhan also appeared before the NWC, where he was reportedly criticised for his and the board’s inconsistent reports regarding the electricity crisis.

The NWC has now instructed the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to determine Ramokgopa’s exact powers.

According to DA’s Alf Lees, Scopa members were surprised by Ramokgopa’s promises of bonuses for power station staff.

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