Retrenchments at Eskom must stop immediately, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa told members of Parliament on Wednesday.

“Retrenchments of a voluntary nature must now stop,” he said. “We need all our skilled people in Eskom.”

“When it comes to the issue of retrenchments, there was a process of asking people to take voluntary retrenchments. That has since been stopped… because we want to retain as many skilled people as we possibly can.”

“We have, we must admit, lost quite a number of skilled people in Eskom and the race is now on to attract as many more skilled people as possible within Eskom.”

“At the same time, Eskom also has a task to make sure that as many of the young black people who can come into Eskom, who have qualification and skills, should be brought into Eskom.”

He was answering a question from African Christian Democratic Party MP Kenneth Meshoe, who said: “Energy expert Andrew Kenny says that Eskom must return to what it was before: An independent engineering company whose sole duty is to provide sufficient and reliable electricity and cover its cost.

“He further said that it must concentrate on its core function and appoint its managers and technicians purely on qualifications and experience, not skin colour or political affiliations.

“We are aware that Eskom has issued denials of race-based retrenchments in order to meet quotes, but NUM has confirmed that there are what they call back-room retrenchments taking place.”

Fin24 published Kenny’s story earlier on Wednesday, which contains the full report.

READ: Eskom still facing massive 18 000MW shortfall

According to an article in Rapport, Eskom had to reduce the number of white engineers and artisans at the company to comply with new government requirements. The number of white engineers reportedly had to be reduced by 1 081, and white artisans by 2 179.

Eskom does not have a policy of retrenching employees based on race, the parastatal said on March 10. “Instead, a principle of natural attrition has been used when certain positions became vacant,” the company said in a statement. “Eskom has, and continues to recruit new engineers and technicians without discrimination.”

Meshoe asked: “What is government going to do to insure and assure the public that retrenchments of experienced engineers are not taking place and that when executives, who have an important role to play at this stage are being suspended, … that it is not going to affect provision of electricity seriously and that the maintenance backlog that is there will still be met on time?”

Ramaphosa responded: “The Eskom of the past … was the Eskom that generated electricity largely for white people in this country. The majority of our people did not enjoy electricity and that was the work of the Eskom of the past. Eskom now has a duty to have electricity that is reticulated to all people in South Africa.”

IFP MP Narend Singh told Ramaphosa: “Patrice Motsepe recently said Eskom is letting South Africa down very badly.”

Responding, the deputy president said: “There will be light at the end of the tunnel.”

“The challenges are being addressed.

“The executives are on leave for three months for the duration of the inquiry,” he said. “At a leadership level, the problem will be addressed.

“The good thing is that the business community have asked to meet us as part of the War Room process,” he said. “They say they have a lot of practical solutions to fix the problems.”

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