DA Leader, John Steenhuisen went to Eskom’s Headquarters, Megawatt Park on Tuesday 10 December 2019, to address the blatant disrespect of President Cyril Ramaphosa for being on a trip in Egypt during the load shedding crisis that is taking place here in South Africa.  

On Monday 9 December, Eskom announced it would implement stage six of rolling blackouts for the first time, taking the country’s load shedding to another level.  

“This unprecedented move signalled that we are now firmly in a race against time to transform the energy landscape in South Africa and ensure future generations are energy secure,” said Steenhuisen.

Cyril Ramaphosa in Egypt during stage six load shedding 

President Ramaphosa is currently in Cairo, Egypt where he is undertaking an official visit. The presidency tweeted: “South Africa and Egypt enjoy cordial bilateral relations underpinned by strong historical and fraternal bonds dating back to the era of the liberation struggle.”

Steenhuisen was not as cheerful, saying: “While President Ramaphosa is currently in Egypt surrounded by ancient ruins from a bygone era, today we too stand in front of a ruin from a bygone era – South Africa’s power producer that faces imminent collapse.”

“The viability of Eskom in its current form is non-existent. This is not a crisis of new making; it has been fast approaching for a decade and more,” added Steenhuisen. 

Load shedding an economic crisis 

Steenhuisen said that while an economic risk and safety threat is at play in the country, the president has decided to jet out to Egypt. 

“It is telling that at the height of what is not just an electricity crisis, but an economic risk and safety threat, the President decided to jet out of the country on an international sojourn to Egypt. Ramaphosa is greatly mistaken if he thinks he can run a country and manage this crisis via a cellphone,” said Steenhuisen.  

“This requires bold and decisive leadership, not platitudes. The devastating effect of these blackouts on the industry, retail, growth and jobs constitute a clear and present danger to our economic wellbeing,” he added. 

Call for the president to return home amidst load shedding  

The DA said that the president should cancel his engagements in Egypt and return home to provide leadership on the crisis. 

“Ramaphosa should address Parliament, taking the nation into his confidence as to what is really transpiring at Eskom.”

President keeping Eskom’s secrets 

Steenhuisen went on to say that we shouldn’t be having rolling blackouts, especially not in December.

Steenhuisen said this raises “suspicion as to what the president is not telling the nation. It’s time to come clean on exactly what the structural problems at Eskom are and how his government plans to address them.”

“The President could signal his seriousness by sacking Gwede Mantashe, who is absent and woefully out of his depth in dealing with this national crisis,” added Steenhuisen. 

Steenhuisen said he wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Thandi Modise, requesting that Parliament is reconvened immediately in order for the President to address the legislature, and to consider its options going forward. 

“It is not right that while the lights are off in the country, the people’s representatives are not convening to light the way forward,” he said. 

Ramamphosa’s approach to zero power

In a press statement on Monday 9 December, responding to this unfolding crisis, President Ramaphosa said “[T]he energy challenges in this country will not be resolved overnight”. 

Criticising his statement, Steenhuisen said: “The tragedy is that much can be done immediately to turn the situation around. The most efficient immediate step is using Section 34 of the Electricity Regulation Act (4 of 2006) which allows the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy to issue a determination that allows qualifying municipalities to bypass Eskom and procure electricity directly from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).”

Steenhuisen said that introducing IPPs into the mix is now a necessity. “In fact, right now Minister Mantashe is sitting with at least seventeen section 34 applications for private generation and purchase of electricity on his desk waiting to be signed – from municipalities, mines and corporations. The President must intervene and ensure these are acceded to within the next 48 hours,” he said. 

The DA’s load shedding strategy 

In terms of the role of DA-led governments, Steenhuisen will be instructing every DA mayor in the country, where appropriate and possible, to write to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede Mantashe, requesting such a determination to be granted with immediate effect. The DA-led City of Cape Town has had to take Minister Mantashe to court to compel him to grant such a determination and we are exploring options to move this case to the urgent roll, given the gravity of the latest developments.

“In addition, I will be issuing a directive to all DA-led municipalities to develop and implement disaster management plans as rolling blackouts show little sign of ceasing. Essential services such as bulk water supply, sanitation services and clinics must be adequately managed, and all risks mitigated against,” said Steenhuisen. 

DA says Eskom should be split into two entities 

The DA said Eskom should be split into two separate entities, one for generation and the other supply. 

“This would ensure a greater supply of energy to the grid from IPPs and bring down the cost of electricity for ordinary South Africans by introducing competition into the energy market. The DA’s ‘Cheaper Electricity Bill’ seeks to do just that and is currently before parliament,” assured Steenhuisen. 

The DA introduced the Energy Security Game Changer which continues to conserve energy supply. “We have legalised the household production of solar energy for over 22 municipalities. Despite the work DA governments are doing in the highly regulated energy environment, the change in our energy sector has to come from the national government,” he said.

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Presh JM Reporter

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