Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams’ energy relief promises exposed as mere posturing as load-shedding crisis persists

Issued by Jan de Villiers – DA Shadow Minister of Small Business Development
27 Nov 2023 in News

There is currently no greater challenge for small businesses in South Africa than the load-shedding crisis and the ANC’s inability to ensure a sustainable energy supply.

It should come as no surprise that over the course of the weekend we once again returned to stage 6 load-shedding. Big businesses and much of the formal sector have learned to adapt to these ongoing power disruptions, at a great cost I must add, however, the small business sector, which is the largest employer in the country, still faces the near insurmountable challenge of getting access to uninterrupted electricity largely due to very limited financial resources.

There was, however, a very brief light in the small business tunnel. On 18 January 2023, the Minister of Small Business Development, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, announced the development of an energy relief package for small, medium, informal, and micro businesses. This initiative, which was seemingly intended to alleviate the detrimental impact of load shedding on these businesses, was a response to the urgent need to support an already struggling sector, further battered by the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic, severe flood damages, and a hostile and overly complex bureaucratic framework. It is worth noting that this announcement was met with overwhelming support, from ourselves, other political parties, and small business stakeholders.

Yet, today, 10 months later, no further information or progress on this promised relief package has been communicated and no budget item exists for it. The Minister’s silence and inaction are especially glaring given the absence of any mention of this relief package in the National Budget presented in February and the Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement (MTBPS).

The Minister’s lack of following through on this promise not only reveals a concerning disconnection between her words and actions but also indicates a shocking lack of understanding and concern for the fiscal realities facing South Africa small business.

The absence of concrete details or steps towards the implementation of this package raises two pressing questions:

  1. Has there been any genuine consultation with the National Treasury or relevant stakeholders about the feasibility and funding of this initiative?
  2. Does the Minister genuinely comprehend the magnitude of this crisis or the solutions required, or was her announcement just an ANC electioneering lie?

The lack of transparency and clarity from the Minister’s office suggests a misrepresentation of intentions to the South African public and the small business sector, which she is entrusted to support and represent.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Minister’s promise was perhaps never a commitment but a cheap political trick to create a facade of concern and action.

The DA stands in solidarity with the millions of small business owners who are struggling to survive amidst this relentless energy crisis. We remain committed to holding Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams and the ANC accountable for their lack of action and disregard for the urgency of the situation.

The small business sector, pivotal for South Africa’s economic prosperity, deserves more than vague promises and a lack of decisive leadership. They need tangible support and a commitment to energy security.

The South African public and the small business community deserve a government that is proactive, responsive, and capable of providing solutions to critical issues like energy security. If the ANC is unable to rise to this challenge, it is incumbent upon them to step aside and allow those who are ready and able to address these pressing needs to lead the way forward.

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