Wednesday, 23 October 2019 06:03

Eskom was handed an additional R59 billion lifeline by parliament, prompting criticism from opposition parties who described it as a “blank cheque”.

The special bill passed by parliament to grant the funding was first proposed by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni in July as Eskom struggled to service its ballooning debt and keep the lights on throughout 2019 as its creaking fleet of coal-fired plants buckled.

Eskom unleashed nationwide blackouts last week which dragged the economy into contraction.

In July Mboweni said that Eskom should adhere to strict conditions to receive the bailout, including assurance that it would be used only to service debt and not for operational costs.

The multi-party Standing Committee on Appropriation, responsible for oversight of the bill, failed to agree on the conditions and early in October opted leave the finance minister’s draft bill unchanged.

Speaking at the parliamentary debate yesterday Mboweni did not directly address the matter of conditions but hinted that Eskom’s management would come under closer scrutiny.

“One of the key issues we need to solve is to appoint the right people to run Eskom. Appoint the right board of directors and a competent management team,” he said.

The special appropriation bill will go to parliament’s second house for approval before being sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for his signature and enactment.