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By Citizen Reporter


ANC’s planned Eskom State of Disaster could drive SA to total financial collapse

Independent energy and political analyst Tshepo Kgadima says that this will not guarantee energy security.

The ANC’s has proposed national state of disaster, meant to address the country’s electricity crisis, does not automatically guarantee energy security.

It does, however, hold the potential for complete collapse of the state as a whole, if government’s handling of prior crises are anything to go by.

This is the view of independent energy and political analyst Tshepo Kgadima, after President Cyril Ramaphosa concluded the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) Lekgotla on Monday evening, confirming suggestions among party leaders that the electricity crisis needs a similar response to that employed against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Barely 24 hours after Ramaphosa’s remarks, the country was again plunged into stage 5 and 6 load shedding, as the ailing Eskom limps from one crisis to another.

State of disaster should be last resort

Kgadima, however, believes such a move should be the very last option invoked in the circumstances.

“One of the undesirable outcomes of declaring a National State of Disaster would be triggering of an event of default by Eskom on its bonds, which are in excess R400 billion, which would consequently also lead to cross-default by all State Owned Companies (SOCs) and inevitably lead to privatisation of Eskom through a ‘backdoor’.

“A National State of Disaster has a brutal effect of unlawful and unconstitutional abrogation of citizens’ rights and freedoms, as well dispensing with all and any laws pertaining to Eskom as an organ of statute, and an SOC governed in conjunction with Public Finance Management Act (PFMA),” Kgadima told The Citizen.

He said on the face of it, the announcement by Ramaphosa has the practical effect of a ‘No Confidence Vote’ in the board of Eskom.

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“The best course of action would have been for the president and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) minister to give an undertaking to first engage in urgent but extensive public consultations with political parties in Parliament, civil society organisations, and organised business formations, wherein details of the appropriateness, efficacy, practical effect and measurable outcomes that would be realised from declaring a state of disaster on Eskom would be discussed,” Kgadima stressed.

ANC are the ones who caused the disaster

Another energy expert Hilton Trollip says National State Disasters are meant and usually declared as a result of external events, such as the viral pandemic or weather events, which leads to changing the basic legal framework of a country which cannot deal with the problem at hand.

In this case, however, the same people who caused the disaster, namely the South African government and its State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) who flouted rules and regulations, are attempting to make it easier to bypass regulations in order to fix the problem.

“This is extremely worrying because by now the Eskom Parliamentary inquiry, the Zondo Commission, the Public Protector reports, and many other analyses of what’s happened at Eskom, show that much of the problem has been through government itself, undermining its own laws and regulatory frameworks and breaking the law and weakening institutions such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA),” said Trollip.

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Trollip says unless government can specifically state which objective it cannot achieve due to a legislative hindrance and how a National State of Disaster would assist with achieving that objective, it should not legitimately be allowed to undermine those laws.

“I think this is a desperate move in the period running up to next year’s general election, to try and make sure that it doesn’t lose that election, because many commentators including election polling is showing that the electricity disaster and associated disasters are going to impact hugely on the election.

“The electorate needs to make voice clearly heard about the disastrous performance of this government and I think that the National State of Disaster is declared to cover up government’s disastrous performance,” Trollip said.

Legal expert Dr Llewellyn Curlewis says declaring a National State of Disaster in an attempt to address the country’s electricity crisis will most likely not yield positive results.

While Ramaphosa said the proposed National State of Disaster will seek to speedily address the power crisis in a much shorter than the 18-24 months government had previously communicated, Curlewis is of the opinion that such a move could just evaporate into thin air.

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“The president and his comrades could have rather focused more on the maintenance problems at Eskom, which were supposed to have been attended to a long time ago.

“The Covid-19 National State of Disaster is a descent example of just how sour things can go because suddenly there is a lot of power vested in a committee set up to address a challenge where there is no Parliamentary oversight…

“I think they should have rather opted for a State of Emergency,” Curlewis said.

Grid collapse is a real possibility. How do we prevent chaos if it happens?

Curlewis said it will be up to law-enforcement agencies to ensure that no violence takes place, as well as ensuring that Eskom’s power stations are safeguarded in the event of a complete grid collapse.

Millions of Rand have already been spent in the guarding of our power stations, with the military already having been deployed to prevent sabotage and other criminal activities.

“Government, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa who is also the Commander in Chief of the SANDF, also has a responsibility to prevent looting. Maybe a lot of emphasis must be placed on people who are hellbent on destroying our infrastructure,” Curlewis said.

He said ordinary members of the public also have a simple responsibility, which is to either believe and vote for their parties of choice, and if services are not delivered, the very same people can be voted out.

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“There is just way too much power vested in one party, which tends to be abused.

“We as a country need to arrive at a point where we appoint the best people for the job. Yes political parties can appoint their preferred people at provincial level, but when it comes to national government, issues of national interest will have to be put first,” Curlewis added.

Another law expert Adv Francois Botes says should the national electricity grid collapse, South Africans will hardly be able to recover.

“It’s a disaster because of two reasons, as it will take the national electricity grid more than five days to restore supply and secondly the country’s economy and the manufacturing industries cannot afford a situation where the grid collapses in its entirety,” said Botes.

Civil unrest the only language government understands?

Botes is of the view a civil uprising is likely to ensue once it becomes evident that the government cannot, and is in no position to secure basic services.

“It’s difficult to prevent wide-scale looting, in other words a scale of looting more intensive and more on a bigger scale a what we have experienced during June/July of 2021, and what we saw then was that our country’s security cluster doesn’t have the manpower or the infrastructure to combat such an uprising.

“It is straightforward and it makes sense that once the population has become destitute in as far as basic services is concerned, or once the population has lost its trust and faith in the government of the day, civil uprising is the only other effective platform for society to ventilate their frustration towards the state,” he said.

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Commenting on the proposed state of disaster, Botes says government should think twice before deciding to impose a National State of Disaster as a result of its own inefficiency to deliver basic services.

“Nobody else can be blamed and criticised except for government, because they created this situation and government is the author if its own misfortune.

“Government created such a platform and environment which simply makes it impossible for any of the SOEs to deliver basic services, and we know as a matter of fact that the employment of cadres within a specific framework and the manner in which appointments were made.

“It can, therefore, hardly be said that the government is not to blame for what we are currently experiencing,” Botes said.

Botes added it is the electorate who will ensure at the end of the day that government does not escape a situation that no reasonable citizen can endure any longer.

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