11 April 2008 - Alec Erwin, public enterprises minister, has defended bonus payments to Eskom executives, saying they deserve them based on their performance in the past financial year.

Alec Erwin"The bonuses we are talking about are for the previous financial year. There is a performance criterion used to evaluate if the executives deserve bonuses. A decision (to give the bonuses) was taken and we supported it because they (Eskom executives) had done well in the past financial year," Erwin said.

"If we treat our senior executives badly, we will struggle to keep them. We must treat people fairly."

Speaking at an imbizo in Rustenburg, outside Johannesburg, Erwin reiterated governments support of Eskom's tariff increase request.

"If the price stays at 14,2% (which the National Energy Regulator of SA, NERSA, has approved), Eskom will lose at lot of money. That is a problem because Eskom needs money to build power stations," he said.

In its submission for a price increase, the utility claimed it would loose between R1 billion (US$142 million) and R10 billion (US$1.4 billion) without the increase.

Speaking in the presence of National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zolkwana, Erwin said "There is still going to be a lot of talking. I hope that we will not have to go to the streets."

The Union had previously repeated a threat by labour federation, Cosatu, of mass action, over rising costs.