Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

‘Load shedding is not an act of God’ – ANC, Eskom responsible, court told

Advocate Ngcukaitobi says government has done nothing over the decades to urgently address Eskom's generation challenges.

Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi has put the blame squarely on African National Congress (ANC) for the country’s electricity crisis, arguing that its successive administrations since 1999 failed to increase Eskom’s generation capacity due to mismanagement and corruption.

Advocate Ngcukaitobi is representing the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and 18 other litigants in their application for an interdict compelling government to exempt essential services like public health institutions and schools, among others, from load shedding.

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The matter is being heard on Monday, by the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria until Friday.

The 19 litigants are also seeking a declaratory order that President Cyril Ramaphosa, as head of the national executive, and national government breached their constitutional duty to supply interrupted power to the country. That part of the application will only be heard in May.

White paper on energy

Arguing on behalf of the applicants, Ngcukaitobi said the ANC-led government failed to heed the warnings of its own White Paper on the Energy Policy of the Republic of South Africa from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

The document from 1998 warned that Eskom‘s generation capacity surplus would be fully utilised by 2007, and that urgent intervention was required to avoid the crippling power cuts costing the South African economy billions of rand daily.

“Now we know that the cause of loading is that demand exceeds supply, but that is not something that we came to know this year. It is something that was known by the government in 1999.

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“We also need to be clear here. This is the same government that bears the responsibility that it bore in 1999. If they were responsible and had the knowledge two decades ago when they knew that they had to have enough generation to cater for the current needs,” argued Ngcukaitobi.

‘Load shedding is not an act of God’

Advocate Ngcukaitobi said government had done nothing over the decades to urgently address Eskom’s challenges, despite building new coal power stations that are yet to be fully commissioned, which he blamed on corruption and maladministration.

“Let me be clear, we say that both the national government and Eskom have caused load shedding. We say that both could have avoided it.

“We say that load shedding is not an act of God. It was caused by Eskom and the national government.”

According to Ngcukaitobi, Eskom admitted in its court papers that the first unit of the Medupi Power Station was only commissioned in 2015, and the last one in 2022. The first unit of Kusile Power Station in 2017 and it’s still not complete.

Ngcukaitobi said this demonstrated that government had been dragging its feet to tackle the country’s energy crisis, saying Ramaphosa’s administration “betrayed its commitment to the Constitution”.

“We deny that the steps that they have taken are constitutionally compliant because it’s not a question of whether they have produced a piece of paper. And they have produced many pieces of paper.

“It is whether or not the steps that they have taken are compliant with the Constitution.”

Avoidable deaths

Ngcukaitobi also outlined some of the negative impacts the rolling blackouts were causing on the country’s health facilities, public schools, and police stations as well as on electronic telecommunications networks.

He argued that there is “irrefutable evidence” of load shedding impeding the right of South Africans to access healthcare, citing studies that showed that the power cuts have, in some instances, led to deaths.

“If 80% of South Africans are reliant on public clinics and public hospitals, and for those public clinics and public hospitals to function; they need electricity…

“Load shedding has caused avoidable deaths. When we say it has produced a humanitarian crisis, we are not exaggerating. We are telling the truth,” said Ngcukaitobi.

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