The biggest risk to small business owners across South Africa is the current energy crisis

Issued by Jan de Villiers MP – DA Shadow Minister for Small Business Development
18 Jan 2023 in News

Sustained loadshedding creates an operational nightmare for any business that is dependent on keeping perishable items cool.

An entrepreneur, Thando Makhubu of the Soweto Creamery ice cream shop was widely praised for his resilience and creativity in creating an inspiring new small business out of the Covid crisis. Using the R350 social relief of distress grant, Thando saved up and started his ice cream business that today employs 5 people. That same business today faces the real threat of failure, as non-stop loadshedding has made it unaffordable for Thando to keep running a generator to try and protect his ice cream from melting.

The tragic impact of a potential business failure to the Soweto Creamery, is that 6 families will be directly impacted – Thando’s own family plus the 5 families of his employees.

This example holds true to every single small business. Your local hair salon, butchery, spaza shop, even the local funeral parlour cannot function without electricity. Every single one of those businesses help sustain families, they give livelihoods.

The current electricity crisis is the greatest and most severe threat facing small businesses and families. It is the worst crisis that democratic South Africa has ever faced, and it demands immediate attention and action more urgently than any other crisis before it.

The DA understands that the only long-term solution is a combination of various big structural reform actions and has for years been urging the ANC government to stop political interference and cadre employment at Eskom, unbundle the monopolistic entity into three parts and fully open up the energy sector to independent power producers.

The harsh economic reality for small business owners is however that these interventions will take years to come into effect and stabilize energy supply and will in all probability only be able to be urgently and seriously implemented post 2024 as the ANC’s 50% majority is broken and a DA coalition takes over to get things done.

Most small businesses cannot wait that long. To survive today, to put food on the table for their families today, they need energy relief today. That’s the urgency we need to see from the President and his cabinet. But what can be done today?

Small business needs to have access to the same power backup solutions that is practically being used by big industry. Big industry has the money and economy of scale to use generators, solar and backup battery solutions to keep the lights on, making them more load-shedding resilient.

The President, via his cabinet and specifically Minister Stella Ndabeni Abrahams needs to urgently look at crisis aids programmes that put these power backup solutions in the hands of small business.

Furthermore, the President also needs to make small business part of the solution, by making sure that there are incentivized programs for entrepreneurs to put power back into the grid and investors are incentivized via tax breaks to invest in start-ups that are working on energy solutions.

During the next few weeks, the DA will be making more detailed proposals on how this can be done, but the reality is that unless the urgency of the situation is recognized by the ANC, nothing can and will come from it.

That’s why on 25 January, the DA is marching to Luthuli house. The crisis demands urgent solutions, and we will be demanding it from the people who inflicted it upon us in the first place, the ANC.

We call on all small business owners to join us in our protest and call for urgent energy justice, as we place the blame where it belongs, at the doorstep of the ANC.