Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

After 15 years, ANC taking ‘decisive action’ to end load shedding by December

Mbalula has slammed calls by the EFF for a national shutdown to protest the continuing load shedding crisis.

The African National Congress (ANC) says it is “changing gear” and taking decisive action to address the country’s crippling energy crisis.

SA’s electricity crisis

The governing party says it has backed calls for the declaration of a national state of disaster to deal with load shedding because it realised that an “extraordinary approach” was required to finally deal with the negative impact of the rolling blackouts on the country’s economy and the lives of ordinary citizens.

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula and the party’s first deputy secretary-general, Nomvula Mokonyane, on Tuesday briefed the media in Johannesburg on the outcomes of the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) Lekgotla.

ALSO READ: Load shedding crisis: Govt seeking legal opinion on declaration of state of disaster

At the top of the agenda of the NEC Lekgotla’s gathering in Ekurhuleni over the weekend was the load shedding crisis, according to Mbalula.

He said the NEC – the ANC’s highest decision-making body – encouraged President Cyril Ramaphosa to declare a national state of disaster on the power cuts because this would ensure that government “moves with speed” in dealing with load shedding once and for all.

Mbalula said the ANC was aiming to end load shedding by the end of 2023 by minimising the impact of the blackouts on the economy and the provision of basic services such as water.

“The target of getting this done and dusted by the end of the year can even move faster if we have got all hands on deck to address issues of procurement and mobilise resources where they’re needed for interventions, particularly when it comes to maintenance and people with capacity – engineering and all of that – who can advise the command centre,” he said.

Multi-sphere command centre

Mbalula conceded that there had been conflicting timeframes on when load shedding could be ended.

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The ANC secretary general said the national state of disaster would ensure there was the establishment of a multi-sphere command centre, comprising various experts that meet weekly, to advise and help government better manage the energy crisis.

“Our response to dealing with load shedding must be scientifically driven and informed by practitioners because somebody can be good as a lawyer, but not good as an engineer.

“As a lawyer, you’ve got good expertise of dismissing people at work, but you rely on other people when it comes to engineering capacity,” said Mbalula.

READ: Load shedding: Ramaphosa calls for action and urgency in dealing with Eskom crisis

He added: “So, you need a combination of all of this [and] that’s what we have directed government to do in response to load shedding. Our confidence that this [load shedding] will be done away is formed by that.”

EFF plans for national shutdown

Mbalula said the ANC could not deny that South Africa was facing a crisis due to load shedding because it would not be helpful.

He slammed calls by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) for a national shutdown on 20 March to protest the continuing load shedding and call for Ramaphosa’s resignation from office.

“Yes, people have got the right to protest and do everything else, but to call for people to shut down… it will cripple the economy,” said Mbalula.

‘Extraordinary approach’

Mokonyane said the country’s electricity crisis required an “extraordinary approach” and that was why the NEC Lekgotla supported calls for a national state of disaster.

“Based on the reality, both socially and economically in our country, the ANC resolved that government must consider declaring a state of disaster so that government can do extraordinary interventions beyond what exists in terms of the regulatory environment, but also in terms of pulling everybody together as we have done during Covid and the 2010 Fifa World Cup,” she said.

Mokonyane said the state of disaster would not be implemented recklessly by government.

“The intention is to ensure that we do not have protracted load shedding, we must make sure that everybody plays his or her part; starting with us as communities saving [power] and paying for the services that are being rendered and government providing the necessary resources and all of us working in an integrated manner.”

Among the measures the ANC wants government to implement to deal with load shedding included:

  • Prioritisation of maintenance, management, and security of Eskom power plants.
  • Management of load shedding such that it minimises the impact on the economy and the provision of basic services, including water.
  • Mitigation of the decision by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) regarding Eskom tariffs on citizens and the economy.
  • Implementation of measures to manage electricity demand, including the installation of solar heaters and panels and other energy-efficient systems, which should be incentivised.
  • Expediting of the procurement of emergency power.
  • Relief and support to poor households, as well as, small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Curbing the outward migration of technical and management skills and capabilities at Eskom while mobilising further skills in areas such as engineering.
  • Support of the Just Energy transition as a long-term programme.

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