South Africa’s War on Graft at Eskom is Ongoing, Gordhan Says

(Bloomberg) -- South Africa is making progress in rebuilding its institutions that uphold the rule of law but still has some way to go in rooting out corruption at power utility Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

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“There are still individuals who are interfering and they need to be dealt with,” Gordhan, who oversees state-owned companies, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Jennifer Zabasajja on Friday. While corrupt elements still remain at Eskom, “the balance is swinging towards the good people, towards getting the right things done, and more and more the law-enforcement agency is identifying the malfeasance within the system,” he said.

Eskom was among a number of state institutions that were systematically looted in an era of endemic graft during former President Jacob Zuma’s almost nine-year tenure. Electricity shortages have persisted since Cyril Ramaphosa succeeded Zuma in early 2018, although rolling blackouts have eased over recent weeks as more generation capacity came on line.

With elections due to take place next week, opposition parties have questioned whether Eskom has ramped up the use of its diesel-powered turbines to ensure the lights stay on, even through they are much more expensive to run than its coal-fired plants. Gordhan and Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa both deny anything untoward, and say turnaround efforts are bearing fruit.

“What we have now is a much more stable leadership both in the board and executive level, and we will see more changes coming in that regard in the coming weeks and months,” Gordhan said.

Bloomberg Terminal clients can click on ELEC ZA for more on South Africa’s elections.

A series of opinion polls show the ruling African National Congress could lose its majority in the May 29 elections — with power cuts among voter’s concerns — but the minister sees that eventuality as unlikely.

“The ANC still, I think, represents the best interests of virtually all South Africans,” and is likely to be given another opportunity to build democracy and the economy, he said.

The country remains a good place to do business, having recently drawn new investments from automakers Ford Motor Co. and Volkswagen AG, and a number of Chinese firms have expressed an interest in following suit, he added.

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