07/11/2017 13:50 SAST | Updated 07/11/2017 15:29 SAST

Maintenance Issues At Eskom Led To Power Cuts, Inquiry Hears

Matona said he took over a utility that was "in serious dire straits".

REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Years of deferring maintenance plans at Eskom's power stations had ultimately led to South Africa being plunged into power cuts and load shedding, MPs heard on Tuesday.

Testifying before Parliament's public enterprises portfolio committee, former Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona – who was appointed in October 2014 -- said he took over a utility that was "in serious dire straits".

It was battling to balance its books and its revenues were under pressure, mainly the result of rising levels of municipal debt. But the "burning platform" he found himself on was its operational problems.

Matona said he was told that in 2010, at the time of the Soccer World Cup, a decision had been taken to defer power station maintenance. This had happened again at the elections.

"A culture had set in of deferring maintenance... By the time I got there, the units were packing up one after another."

Matona served as CEO for only five months, before being suspended by the Eskom board in March 2015.

He said his removal "was without any basis whatsoever", and had come as a complete shock.

On the diesel that Eskom had been forced to buy to drive its peak-supply generators at the time of the load shedding, he suggested that the emergency procedures invoked at the time had allowed the utility "to deviate from what normal procurement would be".

He said this this had created a "major risk" when it came to who was awarded the contract.

His testimony before the inquiry included details of "serious in-fighting" among members of the Eskom Board over procurement matters.

"There were significant tensions... you could call it turmoil," he said, describing what he found at the utility when he took over.

Tshediso said the fighting involved who should be awarded a tender or not, including the controversy over whether Areva or Westinghouse should get the bulk of the Koeberg steam generators tender.