The end of 2007, during former President Thabo Mbeki’s years in power, not only marked the beginning of SA’s rolling blackouts but when leadership at Eskom was also questioned.
According to Eskom, in 2002, the Integrated National Electrification Programme (INEP) was set up, and in 2005, it was established within the department of energy – at the time, the department of minerals and energy.
Even though the budget came from government and was channelled through INEP, it still fell on Eskom to do the bulk of the actual work of electrification.
Up to 2001, Eskom paid for electrification through cross-subsidies from its major customers.
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When Eskom’s price compact with government expired, the National Energy Regulator of SA introduced a more transparent pricing system, which made cross-subsidising unviable.
Further, since Eskom started paying taxes in 2001, as part of the corporatisation process, it was felt that government, as part of its welfare and development function, and not Eskom, should be subsidising the electrification programme.
So from 2001, the cost of new connections was funded directly from the fiscus.
In 2003, it became clear that SA would face an electricity shortage, and Eskom’s board of directors took “a final decision” to return three power stations to service: Camden, Grootvlei, and Komati – none too soon, as peak demand jumped from 31 928MW in 2003, to 34 195MW in 2004.
In March 2004, nearly eight million households were connected, a massive jump from the three million connected in 1990.
In recognition of this, in 2004, Eskom won the Markinor Sunday Times Grand Prix Award for having done the most to uplift the lives of South Africans. It was also identified, in that same year, as SA’s most admired brand.
The same cannot be said any more.