Bonang Mohale: We all have to face a bit of pain to save Eskom

2019-02-19 19:05 - Lameez Omarjee
Bonang Mohale, the CEO of BLSA. (Gallo Images / City Press /Leon Sadiki) ~ Gallo Images

SA will have to face a bit of pain in order to save Eskom, CEO of Business Leadership SA Bonang Mohale has said.

Mohale spoke to Fin24 ahead of the National Budget, to be delivered by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on February 20.

"As business we need to recognise that the country is in a crisis," he said. In times of crisis, we have to act differently than we would have in normal circumstances, he added.

'We must face pain'

Business will be looking to hear measures to be taken to fix Eskom in the National Budget. If Eskom fails, it will have implications for the whole country, Mohale said.

South Africans must realise this is not the time to be siding with politics and ideologies, he argued. "We must face pain. Business must face pain, labour must face pain."

According to Mohale, everyone should do their part to help Eskom survive.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has said that government will step in to provide support for Eskom's balance sheet. Mboweni is expected to reveal details of what this means for the fiscus.

Investec economist Kamilla Kaplan said in a report ahead of the budget that Eskom has requested a R100bn debt transfer, but government is unlikely to extend full support for this in the budget. The power utility has a debt burden of R419bn.

The Parliamentary Budget Office on Tuesday also told Parliament's finance and appropriations committee that the support for Eskom would add pressure to government in terms of maintaining its expenditure ceiling, which it has done successfully over the past seven years. If government cannot source resources to support Eskom through budget allocations, it might have to issue more debt, the PBO warned.

Fixing Eskom is one of the factors that would help restore investor confidence in the country, Mohale said.

Accountability, responsible spending

Apart from measures to boost the economy and create jobs, business will be looking to hear government's plans to reduce debt levels, how it plans to stop the bleeding caused by the State Capture project, whether it plans to reduce the number of civil servants and workers in public institutions like Eskom, and finally, what is being done to hold those responsible for corruption accountable.

Mohale acknowledged that there had been progress in the past year in cleaning up public institutions, including governance reforms and leadership changes at state-owned enterprises.

However, he warned that there was still a lot of work to be done, because those implicated in corruption would not go to jail without "kicking and screaming", in his view.

The Budget will be tabled in Parliament at 14:00 on Wednesday.