Nersa ‘has confirmed Eskom is burning more diesel ahead of elections’ – DA

The party will now lodge a complaint with the Public Protector over ANC’s pressure on Eskom.

There is increasing skepticism about Eskom's true reasons for keeping the lights on. Photographer: Guillem Sartorio/Bloomberg

There is increased skepticism about the true reasons why South Africa has enjoyed more than 40 days of uninterrupted power supply, despite Eskom’s assertions that it is thanks to a disciplined maintenance plan and more solar power.

Dr Mimmy Gondwe, DA MP and the party’s shadow minister of public enterprises, said in a statement on Friday that the DA will submit a complaint with the Public Protector after a media report that the ruling party is putting pressure on Eskom to keep the lights on less than three weeks before the national election.

Read: The lights are on in SA … and many are suspicious 

South Africa has enjoyed 43 days without load shedding, a rare occurrence after more than two years of almost daily blackouts.

The country’s power crisis is one of the main reasons why the ruling ANC’s support has dwindled in the past five years.

The Mail & Guardian reported on Friday that Eskom had ramped up the use of diesel-powered open-cycle gas turbines during April and May in the crucial weeks before South Africans head to the poll on 29 May.

Critics suggest the utility has succumbed to political pressure to keep the lights on at all costs in the days leading up to the elections.

According to the newspaper, the high rate of burning diesel has also been confirmed by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) which claims the power utility has spent more than half of its quarterly diesel budget in just one month.

Listen/read: Is Eskom burning the midnight diesel to keep the lights on? 

The DA’s Gondwe said on Friday that there is now evidence that the (Cyril) Ramaphosa administration “overstepped its authority and directly interfered in the operation of Eskom for political advantage in an election year”.

She claims there is deliberately false information to mislead members of the public on Eskom’s diesel use to cover up a political scheme and that load shedding will return “almost immediately” when the polls close on 29 May as Eskom will try to once again limit the premature depletion of its diesel budget.

The media report comes two days after assertions from Eskom’s former CEO André de Ruyter who said at a PSG investment conference on Wednesday that the country’s current spell of no load shedding should be attributed to very high diesel usage.

“Eskom is burning diesel at a rate of knots,” De Ruyter said when asked to weigh in on Eskom’s apparent improved generation performance recently.

However, Eskom’s board chair Mteto Nyati vehemently denied De Ruyter’s claims in a radio interview on 702 and maintained the improvement in power supply was thanks to accelerated planned maintenance.

He admitted that Eskom had spent more on diesel in the period from April 2023 to March 2024 to minimise disruptions. However, more units were coming back online which translates into an additional 32 000 MW power availability, Nyati said in the interview.