South Africa: Eskom, Maria Ramos and a Big Test for President Ramaphosa's Strength


It can sometimes be forgotten, amid all of the election huff and puff, that the biggest test facing South Africa right now is electricity and Eskom. If its two related problems - the technical difficulties relating to power production and the financial implications of its incredible debt - are not solved, there's a high chance of real disruption to society. It seems that those in charge of the problem are trying to get going with fixing it. Even if they hire the best possible people, they are likely to face incredible political blowback.

On Easter Sunday the Sunday Times reported that Maria Ramos may be appointed to head the resurrection of Eskom. It is a job, frankly, that no one should want. Eskom has a debt of more than R450-billion. That's billion. Its interest payments alone are huge, and it battles to make its payments on time. The newspaper also reported that National Treasury had to hand over money from its emergency fund after the money from a loan from the Chinese Development Bank did not get through in time. This was for a figure of R7-billion, an indication of how close Eskom is to disaster.

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