Eskom once again plunges SA into darkness

Issued by Ghaleb Cachalia MP – DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises
13 Aug 2020 in News

South Africa has once again been plunged into darkness this morning when stage 2 load shedding was implemented countrywide due to the delay to return five generation units to service and a further two units went offline.

Eskom has issued warnings of a “severely constrained” power system and has urged “the people of South Africa to reduce electricity consumption in order to help us power the country through the evening peak.”

This blow follows a court ruling this week that the City of Cape Town must first exhaust negotiations with the Government in its attempt to secure South African municipalities the legal right to select their electricity suppliers.

These developments reflect the continued inability of Eskom to meet the needs of South Africans for affordable and available electricity. On the one hand Eskom continues to limp into the darkness of the death spiral Eskom CEO, André de Ruyter, himself referred to and on the other, an inexplicable procedural judgment that has stymied the plans of a city of four million people to set up its own power-purchasing office, which would secure supplies within six years.

This situation is untenable as South Africans battle to emerge from the economically crippling effects of Covid-19 legislation that has depressed demand for electricity in the interim. How Eskom intends to meet a rise in electricity needs as the economy revivifies is woefully unclear.

Meanwhile the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) Independent Systems and Market Operator (ISMO) Bill or the Cheaper Energy Bill which aims to drive the cost of electricity down, introduce competition into the energy sector and diversify the country’s energy sources to introduce more renewables, continues to be side-lined by the portfolio committee. The private member’s bill introduced by DA Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone MP, is a reworked version of another bill first introduced by the Energy Minister in 2012 to deal with Eskom’s conflict of interest as a generator and distributor of electricity. It was later withdrawn in 2014.

The question to be asked in view of this, is whether Government as shareholder of Eskom and responsible for the country’s energy needs is serious about the dire situation South Africa is facing on the electricity supply front? Its actions or more precisely, its lack of action, seems to suggest otherwise.

The utility’s crippling debt levels, its continued inability to secure a stable grid and Government’s unwillingness in the face of this to pursue meaningful alternative options reflects a gross dereliction of duty and responsibility to the nation.

The DA demands urgent attention to these issues, failing which, the death spiral De Ruyter referred to and the concomitant impact on our flailing economy will be, in the words used to refer to the failure of the Apartheid government, too ghastly to contemplate. We urge an urgent re-visitation by the parliamentary committee of credible options with urgency. The DA will write to the chair of the committee to make this request plain.

Click here to read more about the DA’s plan to drive the cost of electricity down, introduce competition into the energy sector, and diversify the country’s energy sources to introduce more renewables, as well as our record of action on the electricity crisis over the last 8 years.