The following remarks were made today by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane, during his Kasi-to-Kasi Tour in KwaZulu Natal. Maimane wasjoined by DA KwaZulu Natal Premier Candidate, Zwakele Mncwango.
Fellow South Africans
Our country is facing its biggest crisis since 1994. Load-shedding isn’t simply going without lights for a few hours at a time. When the power goes out for stage 3 or 4 of load-shedding, our entire economy switches off. And when it does this enough times, it cannot switch back on again.
Small businesses have no room to move. They work on tiny profit margins and often have no extra cash to cushion them against tough times. When they have to close their doors during power cuts, they are unable to pay staff, they are unable to pay suppliers and they are unable to pay rent and services. This means they go out of business and all their employees, along with their families, immediately lose their only income.
A town like Umzinto is built around small businesses, many of them family-owned. If these power cuts continue, unemployment here will shoot through the roof. This area already has among the highest unemployment in the country, with almost one in every two people unable to find work. More load-shedding will add thousands more to these numbers.
But it’s not only business closures and job losses that will affect you. Without power, you will start to lose access to all basic services, as water cannot be pumped and sewage treatment plants cannot function without electricity.
Already hospitals and clinics across the country are having to turn patients away and delay life-saving treatments because they cannot operate without guaranteed power for extended periods. This is a human catastrophe waiting to happen.
That’s why load-shedding is so much more than losing lights for a few hours. Eskom will drag our whole country down with it if we don’t immediately fix what we can fix, and change what we must change. And this means either forcing the people who created this problem – the ANC government – to take the right action, or using 8 May to fire them as a government. Those are our only options.
If the ANC doesn’t agree to a number of urgent reforms at Eskom and the way we generate and purchase electricity, our only hope as a nation is to immediately replace them with a government that is prepared to make the big calls. To date the ANC has been unwilling to break Eskom’s energy monopoly or to stand up to the unions, which is why we are in this crisis.
But you don’t have to wait till 8 May to make your voice heard. You can join thousands of others tomorrow during our National Day of Action, which will take place across all provinces. Our main event will be a march to the Union Buildings in Tshwane, where we will present a plan that can be immediately implemented to avert this disaster.
This starts with rejecting the pressure the unions are applying to government to maintain Eskom’s monopoly, and allowing Independent Power Producers to start selling power to the national grid.
Then we must immediately halt the build on the last two units at the Kusile power station. Kusile and Medupi have already cost hundreds of billions more than was budgeted and they still don’t operate properly because of critical design flaws. It is estimated that almost R140 billion was stolen from Eskom over the past decade relating to the construction of these two stations. We need to plug this hole straight away and focus on independent producers.
We must also allow Eskom to buy its coal from any source, so that it can ensure the best quality and price.
We must immediately prioritise the maintenance of all ageing power stations, because when they start shutting down due to lack of maintenance we will quickly go from controlled load-shedding to uncontrolled blackouts.
Government must instruct PetroSA to supply Eskom with diesel at a tax-free cost until we have survived this crisis.
Government must also immediately allow well-functioning metros and municipalities to start purchasing their electricity directly from independent producers, and not solely from Eskom.
We need to stop exporting electricity to our neighbours right away until we are able to meet our own demand and stabilize our grid.
We must reaffirm all engineering and maintenance employees at Eskom as an “essential service” and prohibit them from entering into strike action.
Municipalities must install major smart meters right away, which will allow them to collect electricity revenue accurately and on time.
And finally, we must make it our urgent priority to appoint skilled senior management at power station level. One of the biggest threats to Eskom was the replacement of skilled management with deployed cadres, and this needs to be reversed as soon as possible.
There are many more interventions that are required in the medium to long term to stabilize our power supply and reduce our dependency on Eskom, but the steps I have just mentioned here are immediate solutions we can set in motion tomorrow to avert a national crisis.
Because make no mistake, we are staring down the barrel of a crisis. Don’t be fooled by the lights coming back on this week. Between now and the election on 8 May the ANC will do everything in its power to keep the lights on. They will run power stations without maintenance until they break beyond repair. They will use every last drop of expensive diesel to run turbines until then.
They will do whatever it takes to postpone the disaster until after voting has taken place. Because they know that what they did to our country’s energy should get them fired.
If ever there was a time to stand up to your government and demand action, it is now. If all South Africans stand together, they cannot ignore us. Wherever you are tomorrow, join the Day of Action and make your voice heard.
Together we can force government to act in the interest of the country and not the ANC.
Together we can keep the lights on.
Together we can take the power back!