While Ramaphosa’s lieutenants are busy working overtime to shield him from accountability over the Phala Phala farm scandal, the country has been forced into stage 6 loadshedding by Eskom.
The undeniable reality is that the ANC government has long given up on finding a lasting solution to the electricity crisis and the country now finds itself on the cusp of a total grid collapse. Sadly the festive lights will be switched off as people contend with the reality of Minister Pravin Gordhan and the ANC government’s failure.
In July 2022, while presenting his Energy Response Plan, President Cyril Ramaphosa responded directly to the DA call for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom by stating that ‘We do not need a state [of]…. national disaster to implement common sense regulations that should help in resolving our energy crisis.’
Yet, 5 months later, South Africa finds itself in an indefinite stage 6 loadshedding schedule which is projected to get worse due to Eskom’s depleted diesel budget to keep its Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT) operational.
As if this was not enough, Koeberg nuclear power station is preparing to shut down its Unit 1 on December 8 for maintainance and refueling. This will take 920MW off the grid at a time when Eskom’s coal fleet is breaking down across the board.
It is likely that Eskom will need to further escalate load shedding in the next few days.
Faced with this rapidly worsening electricity crisis, the DA has resolved to re-submit our request for a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom, to be placed on the agenda of the next Cabinet meeting. The country cannot afford to continue carrying the devastating economic cost of an electricity crisis that becomes more severe and harmful to our country with each passing day.
The response to the electricity crisis must now be treated as a matter of National Security, and handled with the urgency, scale and focus of a war-like situation.
The immediate outcome of a ring-fenced State of Disaster on Eskom is that it will enable disaster relief funding to be sourced from other departments and government resources, and reprioritized to keep the open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.
Most importantly, such a declaration will allow government to bypass its own self-imposed obstacles, bottlenecks and cost inflations in the form of unworkable labour legislation, localisation requirements, cadre deployment and preferential procurement.
Failure to adopt a National Security approach to the electricity crisis has already exerted a significant economic cost on the country and dimmed our prospects of addressing the high unemployment rate.
With loadshedding costing South Africa’s economy R500 million per stage, per day, it is hardly surprising that the economy has basically been stagnant over the past decade and a half. New investments cannot be made in an energy scarce environment and existing businesses cannot expand their operations due to energy uncertainty.
The rolling blackouts are evidently a threat to national security, at economic and social levels. The livelihoods of millions of South Africans are at risk and the national focus should be on finding short term solutions to stabilize supply while expanding energy market participation by Independent Power Producers.