Eskom Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer said the power utility does not have the money to lay off staff to improve its sustainability.

Speaking to Beeld, Oberholzer admitted that productivity at Eskom is much lower than what it used to be.

He said that 11 years ago, Eskom employed less than 30,000 people. This is now sitting at 44,000 employees, while the company is also paying for contractors to keep the lights on.

Most analysts agree that Eskom has a bloated workforce, but Oberholzer said there are no plans to cut staff.

He said cutting staff will “only” save Eskom around R7 billion per year, adding that Eskom does not have the money for retrenchment packages.

Oberholzer added that it would not be good to retrench between 10,000 and 15,000 people when the country’s economy is in the doldrums.

Instead of laying off staff, he said Eskom is focusing on increasing productivity among existing staff, which he admitted is “very low”.

Eskom – 2008 to 2018

South Africa has a history of being one of the world leaders in electricity adoption and production, and by the end of 1990, it was supplying more than half the electricity in Africa.

Eskom also became a highly efficient electricity producer and in its 1994 annual report, it promoted the fact that it was the world’s lowest-cost producer of electricity.

However, this once stable, efficient, and well-run power producer was broken by years of mismanagement and corruption, especially under the Jacob Zuma presidency.

With a debt burden which already exceeds R440 billion, the company is technically bankrupt and is seen as the single biggest risk to South Africa’s economy.

The company is now suffering from a lack of skills, despite having a bloated workforce who are overpaid.

Energy expert Ted Blom previously said the average employee at Eskom gets four-times more than what they should be earning.

Although Eskom’s employee bill nearly tripled over the last decade, the company is now selling less electricity than it did in 2008.

The image below provides an overview of how Eskom has fallen over the past 10 years.