Cape Town – Electricity parastatal Eskom has been grilled by Parliament for supply disruptions and connection delays in areas such as rural communities, schools and clinics.
It also came under fire for employing expatriates as welders at its mega power stations – Medupi and Kusile – construction sites after disgruntled locals briefly caused disruptions there last month.
In its defence, Eskom said lack of funding was hampering its efforts and if it could get more money, delivery would be improved.
Eskom also indicated that it did not fund electricity projects as the monies for that came from the National Treasury through the Department of Energy.
Eskom said that the welding at construction sites needed specialists, who were not only scarce in the country but across the globe.
The labour unrests had been resolved at the construction sites and projects would be completed on time, it said.
The electricity parastatal said it had responded to President Jacob Zuma’s call for job creation by establishing a welding school and an academy, which would supply the needed skills.
A delegation from Eskom appeared before the Select Committee on Labour and Public Enterprises on Wednesday to make a presentation on its electrification and capacity expansion programmes, as well as to give an update on the labour unrest at Medupi and Kusile.
In its presentation, the delegation said due to limited funding, they could only electrify 100 000 housing units a year, and that they had since electrified 11 000 schools, while about a further 7 000 were still to be electrified. It said that 4 000 clinics had also been electrified.
So far, R13.5 billion had been spent on the electrification programme, with 83.3 percent of South Africa having been electrified, Eskom said, pointing out that provinces such as the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal had bigger backlogs.
The delegation said their current backlog was at 2.5 million houses, while an estimated 3.4 million other households in the country did not have electricity.
The committee expressed dissatisfaction with parts of the presentation, saying that they wanted to know progress in electrifying specific regions such as rural areas.
The committee also wanted to know how much electricity was being lost through theft, and why Eskom was selling supply to other countries when locals were experiencing delays in connections and outages.
Eskom said the illegal connection of electricity was a countrywide phenomenon which needed community cooperation to stem it out.
It said that currently those who were doing it were not been successfully prosecuted in the courts.