President Jacob Zuma made a huge commitment when he told journalists on Friday that the country would never again experience load shedding.
Zuma was confident after a visit to Eskom’s Megawatt Park headquarters, where he met the utility’s executive, had a meeting with power station managers and addressed other staff briefly.
He said the visit was part of his programme as president, “to see how [State-owned companies] are doing”. He said in light of earlier problems with electricity supply, he had to come to see how Eskom is dealing with its problems and find out whether load shedding is a thing of the past.
“Written reports don’t tell you the whole story, because anybody can write them,” Zuma said, emphasising the need to see for himself what is happening (at Eskom).
He said he has been telling people load shedding is a thing of the past and was asking the Eskom management whether that is the truth.
Before, people announced there would be load shedding, without saying how they would turn the situation around. The situation deteriorated to a point where government had to intervene and it looks as if the interventions worked, he said.
The Eskom leadership presented their plan to prevent load shedding to him and are in fact about to reach a point where it has a surplus of energy, Zuma said.
He said he saw the flow of energy in the country during his visit to the Integrated Generation Control Centre (GICC) and left convinced that Eskom “knows what it is doing”. He was impressed with the fact that Eskom is in a position to be able to sell electricity to neighbouring countries and saw that Eskom has a clear plan to prevent load shedding from re-occurring.
“Even I, who went to no school, could see the plan,” he said. “It makes me feel so confident I want to run out into the street and shout: ‘We have won!’”
After the visit, he can confidently tell people that the lights will stay on, “because you are doing a wonderful job”, Zuma told Eskom staff.
He praised the Eskom leadership who tackled the problems for their commitment.
He said electricity is key to changing people’s lives for the better and therefore Eskom plays a very important role.
The eyes of the world are on South Africa, he said. Many other countries in Africa have load shedding “as their daily bread”, but you never hear about them. One country in the Southern African Development Community region has eight hours of load shedding per day, but nobody talks about it, because they are not in the spotlight like South Africa, Zuma said.
He thanked Eskom staff for their contributions – a job well done, he said. “I was almost tempted to ask for a job, because I like working with people who work. Sometimes I change people and there are many reasons for that.
“Whatever job you do, do it effectively because you contribute to the bigger picture,” he told Eskom staff. He said Eskom used to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, but that has been changed to positive coverage. “We are proud of you”, he said.
“I’m happy, more than happy. I should have come to you before talking to Parliament about my budget, because this is a good story to tell. You are the pride of the country.
“I am going to tell the country we will never, ever, ever again have load shedding,” he said.
Eskom staff was clearly excited about Zuma’s visit – the first ever – and sang songs, saying he is holding their hand.