The following statement was delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at Nkululeko House, Johannesburg. Maimane was joined by DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises, Natasha Mazzone, and DA National Spokesperson, Solly Malatsi:
Today South Africa faces a national electricity crisis due to years of ANC corruption, looting and mismanagement of Eskom and a refusal to diversify our energy sector. With persistent blackouts in every corner of our nation, we remain on the brink of a disaster that we may never fully recover from.
South Africans wake up every morning not knowing whether the lights will stay on, hospital managers are forever vigilant of the possibility of the power going out during operations, and small businesses which are already struggling to survive are coming under tremendous pressure. Having spoken with small business owners, many say that the rolling blackouts could lead to the closure of the enterprises.
South Africans are well aware as to why we find ourselves in this crisis. For the past decade, the ANC in government has repeatedly used a sprinkler to put out a mountain fire in our energy sector – most notably at Eskom. And even today they are continuing this trend by spending billions of rand we don’t have on burning diesel to keep the lights on – instead of addressing the structural issues that keeps us trapped in this cycle of energy insecurity. And just because the lights may stay on in the short term, does not mean the problems are solved.
With an already weak economy, the Eskom crisis is an added burden and provides little hope for struggling South Africans – especially the almost 10 million without jobs. At the end of the week, Moody’s Rating Agency will adjudicate on our economic health, and the Eskom crisis will predictably play a role in this decision.
It is clear that there exists no plan to fix this mess at all levels of national government. From the President, to the Minister of Public Enterprises, to those at Eskom – there exists no plan and no political will to take immediate action to get our country out of this ANC-created crisis. It appears as “business as usual” for national government. The President is more focused on pleasing those within the ANC, while his brother-in-law, Energy Minister Jeff Radebe, is running rogue trying to secure multibillion-rand oil deals in South Sudan.
While the ANC national government is in disarray, we believe Parliament as the legislative arm of government must step up to the task and provide solutions before it is too late. Indeed, it is a breach of the Constitutional duty of Members of Parliament (MPs) to be out campaigning when they should be rolling up their sleeves and implementing solutions to address our national energy crisis.
The DA has therefore written to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, urgently calling for Parliament to remain in session, and for the National Assembly (“NA”) to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Eskom in terms of Rule 253 of the Rules of the National Assembly (“the Rules”) consisting of the NA Portfolio Committees on Energy, Public Enterprises, and Trade and Industry.
Rule 253 reads:
“An ad hoc committee may be established—
(a) by resolution of the Assembly; or
(b) during the adjournment of the Assembly for a period of more than 14 days,
by the Speaker after consulting the Chief Whip and the most senior whip
of each of the other parties.”
The National Assembly (NA), which held its last sitting last week Wednesday 20 March, is still able to do the people’s work until 7 May 2019, the day before the national elections. Therefore, the Speaker must simply recall a sitting of the National Assembly to deal with this national crisis.
This ad hoc committee must be tasked with seeking workable solutions to the crisis, including:
Parliament to immediately pass the ISMO Bill, which seeks to break up Eskom into separate generation and supply entities so that energy is cheaper and more secure for the people of South Africa;
Enquiring into the circumstances surrounding the potentially imminent threat of the collapse of the national energy grid;
Inviting experts and industry stakeholders for input;
Summoning the relevant officials and Ministers to account for the current crisis and providing evidence for actions previously taken to prevent the current situation;
Deliberating and resolving to implement solutions to prevent the potentially imminent collapse of the national energy grid, and put recommendations forward to both Houses of Parliament to consider; and
Moving for any urgent, necessary legislative amendments to existing legislation and regulations to deal with the potentially imminent threat of the collapse of the national energy grid and the threat it poses to the national economy.
In addition to this, I will today write to Deputy President David Mabuza, requesting an urgent meeting with him in order to establish the plans the Presidency and the Special Cabinet Committee have in place to deal with this crisis. The lack of transparency from national government is not helping the situation. We need national government to play open cards with the people of South Africa.
The truth is we can overcome this crisis and the DA has solutions on the table to do so.
Privatise Eskom’s generation entities, diversifying what energy enters the grid while increasing competition and lowering costs;
Instruct Eskom to freeze the last two units at Kusile’s build immediately, rather looking to IPPs for power. The two big coal builds are pulling the utility deeper into a sea of debt while the units cannot run at full capacity because of design and build problems;
Commit Eskom’s maintenance and engineering employees as an ‘essential service’ that cannot strike;
Install smart meters for municipalities to collect revenue on time; and
Allow metros that function well to source energy directly from independent energy suppliers.
The crisis at hand leaves no time for dithering. Immediate action is now required. And it is going to take ordinary citizens to shake this ANC national government to wake up before it’s too late.
This is why we will launch a National Day of Action this Friday 29 March, calling on South Africans in every community, town and city across the country, to join us in a collective protest against what is now a national crisis. As when we came together to take a stand against Jacob Zuma and the capture of our state, next Friday will see citizens showing this ANC government that we have the power.
The message is clear: there is a plan to fix this crisis and we need to institute this plan now. And we will mobilise next Friday to call on this ANC government to take the action required to fix this national crisis.
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