What You Need To Know About Calls For A National State of Disaster

What You Need To Know About Calls For A National State of Disaster

Context:

  • South Africa is suffering from rolling blackouts and an energy crisis. Currently, Eskom’s power stations only have a 58% Energy Availability Factor and experts say that it might be two years before EAF can reach 70%. In 2007 load shedding was introduced as a ‘temporary’ solution to reduce electricity demand . More than a decade later, the situation has escalated where the country faces daily blackouts amped up to stage six load shedding. (1)

  • To top it off, on 13 January 2023, the National Energy Regulator of SA approved a 18.65% electricity tariff increase for Eskom. This was met with pushback given the rising cost of living, increasing gas prices and high inflation rates. (2)

  • Various campaigns and protests have been organised to voice discontent with the state of affairs. Some of these include the DA’s march to the ANC Headquarters, Luthuli House, on 25 January, the EFF’s planned National ShutDown on the 20th of March, and various other civic protests in Tshwane, Cape Town CBD and other areas. (3)

  • Others are even taking legal action against the state. For example Lekwa Local Municipality (Mpumalanga) and Ngathwe Municipality (Free State) won in their appeal against Eskom at the ConCourt. The ConCourt ruled in favour of the municipalities, arguing that Eskom’s regular cut of electricity supply affected residents’ rights to dignity, healthcare, education and a safe environment. (4)

Call for a National State of Disaster:

  • During the ANC’s four-day Lekgotla in Ekurhuleni, ANC members encouraged the President to declare a National State of Disaster in order to deal with the crisis. This declaration would allow the Presidency to access departmental funds and act outside of regulation in order to address the energy crisis with more urgency. They believed this could be a stronger response than the 2 year turnaround plan proposed by Eskom’s Chairperson, Mpho Makwena. (5)

  • The President has provided an initial reaction to this call: “There was talk about a national state of disaster, like what we did when we faced Covid-19. Work is already under way within the government to establish whether the legal requirements for the declaration of a national state of disaster are met and what specific actions we would be empowered to undertake to urgently resolve load shedding within the framework of a national state of disaster. This matter will receive attention, including at the Cabinet Lekgotla, and must be resolved without delay”.

  • The Portfolio Committee on Public Enterprises has also welcomed the proposal to declare the ongoing rolling load shedding a state of national disaster to assist Eskom to manage the energy crisis.

Political Parties React:

  • The DA said in a public statement that a State of disaster is the only answer to more than a decade of load shedding. However, they stated clearly that if this were to be enacted, it would require rigorous Parliamentary oversight and strict ring-fencing to prevent corruption. (6)

  • Meanwhile, the EFF has opposed the possibility of a State of Disaster. They tweeted yesterday: “EFF Rejects Calls For A National State Of Disaster On The Ongoing Energy Crisis and shared a media statement saying that the call was an ‘empty pretence of doing something about the electricity crisis, and will not end crippling rolling blackouts.” (7)

  • GOOD party MP Brett Herron has also publicly opposed the idea. He tweeted: “A declaration of a State of Disaster for energy supply looks like theatrics of urgency. What will a State of Disaster achieve that the PFMA & procurement regulations don’t already provide for? Will we now have 3 ministers, incl. COGTA, involved in sorting out the crisis? No man!” (8)

  • Herman Mashaba from ActionSA says, "The ANC showed just exactly how heartless it is by exploiting tender processes during COVID while thousands of people were dying. There is no reason to believe that this time will be any different." (9)

Civil Society Reacts

  • COSATU has welcomed the idea of implementing a state of disaster. Solly Phetoe spoke openly on Newzroom Afrika about how he believes it would benefit the country. Watch it here. (10)

  • Peter Bruce, Editor and long-standing reporter for Media Houses such as Business Day, Business Live, Financial Times and Financial Mail has published an opinion piece expressing his concern about the idea. He believes that it will not put an end to load shedding or the crisis. He theorised that President Cyril Ramaphosa might be using the State of Disaster as a political play to improve his reputation with the public. (11)

  • Jamie from Africa Research Desk has raised concerns about how the funds that will be freed up from the National State of Disaster declaration will be used. He notes that without a clear strategy to use the funds to generate widely available renewable energy, there still might not be a clear solution to loadshedding. Similarly, he raised concerns about the issue of looting, which was a major issue during the Covid-19 National State of Disaster. He also raised that this might be an opportunity for the ANC to simply buy time and improve voter attitudes in time for the 2024 elections. (12)

Final Thoughts

This would be the third State of Disaster in three years, following those declared in response to Covid-19 in 2020 and the KZN floods in 2022. However, it is unclear yet whether it is a definite commitment from the ANC, when it would be implemented and for how long it would last. As we approach SONA 2023, citizens can expect to hear more about it in the coming days.

What do you think? Source

  1. Expect near-permanent load shedding for the next 2 years: Eskom1.
  2. NERSA APPROVES 18,65% ELECTRICITY TARIFF INCREASE FOR THE 2023/24 FINANCIAL YEAR
  3. DA march to Luthuli House Gatvol South Africans vent over load shedding as protest action looms
  4. ConCourt deals major blow to Eskom’s efforts to recover billions in municipal electricity debt
  5. Government is considering declaring SA’s rolling blackouts a National State of Disaster, says Ramaphosa
  6. ANC finally concedes the obvious: it has turned Eskom into a disaster
  7. EFF Twitter
  8. Brett Herron Twitter
  9. ActionSA Twitter
  10. COSATU on Newsroom Afrika 405
  11. PETER BRUCE: The state of disaster is ... a disaster
  12. Africa Research Desk Twitter

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