President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a National State of Disaster – with immediate effect – as a response to the current energy crisis facing South Africa.
For a while now, Eskom has been battling to keep the lights on, leading to increased stages of load shedding and a devastating impact on lives, livelihoods and businesses.
On Thursday the 9th of February 2023, the President announced the State of Disaster during the State of the Nation Address at Cape Town City Hall.
“In a time of crisis, we need a single point of command and a single line of march. Just as we address the cause of the crisis, we also need to address its impact. The crisis has progressively evolved to affect every part of society,” the President said.
He added that government must act to lessen the impact of the crisis on farmers, small businesses, water infrastructure, transport networks and several other areas and facilities that affect citizens’ lives.
“In considering all these matters and the crisis that we are in, the National Disaster Management Centre has consequently classified the energy crisis and its impact as a national disaster. We are therefore declaring a National State of Disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects,” President Ramaphosa said.
He emphasised that the devastating energy shortage in which the country finds itself requires the government to move with increased urgency.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric. We must spare no effort, and we must allow no delay, in implementing these measures,” he said.
How it will work
The President explained that the declaration will enable the government to provide practical measures to assist businesses that have been devastated by the effects of load shedding.
“The State of Disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply,” he said.
Where technically possible, the President said the State of Disaster will also enable the country to exempt critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment plants from load shedding.
“It will enable us to accelerate energy projects and limit regulatory requirements while maintaining rigorous environmental protection as well as procurement principles and technical standards,” he said.
President Ramaphosa assured the public that expenditures related to the State of Disaster will be monitored closely by the Auditor General’s office to guard against abuse of any funds needed to address the energy crisis.
Furthermore, a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency is expected to be appointed to focus solely on bringing the country out of the current energy crisis.
“I will appoint a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency to assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee,” the President said.
He added that the Minister will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay.
The President also said the National Treasury is finalising a solution to Eskom’s R400 billion debt burden in a manner that is equitable and fair to all stakeholders, which will enable the power utility to make necessary investments in maintenance and transmission.
“Government will support Eskom to secure additional funding to purchase diesel for the rest of the financial year. This should reduce the severity of load shedding as Eskom will be able to use its diesel-run plants when the system is under strain,” he said.
Eskom has launched a programme to buy excess power from private generators and has already secured 300 MW from neighbouring countries.
Furthermore, the President added that the South African Police Service has established a dedicated team with senior leadership to deal with the persistent corruption and theft at several power stations that have contributed to the poor performance of the stations. -SAnews.gov.za