By Kevin Mileham MP, DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, and Ghaleb Cachalia MP, DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises.
With President Cyril Ramaphosa currently incapacitated due to the Phalaphala scandal hanging over his head and ANC factional politics his sole focus, the DA is calling for Parliament to be immediately reconvened to provide leadership on the electricity crisis.
Ever since the Section 89 panel on the Phalaphala scandal issued its report, Ramaphosa has completely disengaged from the business of governing and left the country to run on auto pilot. Meanwhile, loadshedding by Eskom has been escalated to a level where it has severely increased the risk of a national blackout and grid collapse.
The DA demands that the Chairpersons of the portfolio committees on Public Enterprises and Mineral Resources and Energy summon Eskom executives and Ministers who serve in the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) to provide a comprehensive report on the steps that they have taken to address the crisis.
The joint committee sitting must demand that:
- NECOM provides a progress report on what they have accomplished to date in terms of resolving the crisis, including a timeline of proposed interventions;
- The Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, Gwede Mantashe, provides an update on what his Department has done to secure new generation capacity in the short to medium term;
- The Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, together with Eskom executives, give updates on each power station, units that are out of commission and the steps being taken to bring them back online;
- The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, gives a detailed report of what his Department has done to date to address the issue of sabotage that continues to rear its ugly head at power stations;
- The Minister of Finance provides an update on the way forward with regards to Eskom’s request for assistance with resources to purchase diesel for its Open Cycle Gas Turbines.
Instead of coming up with cogent solutions to the crisis, Ramaphosa’s Ministers have issued empty statements and blamed everyone other than themselves for this national emergency.
Just last week, Mantashe made a flimsy attempt to absolve himself from any responsibility by accusing Eskom of “actively agitating for the overthrow of the state”. His colleague, Pravin Gordhan, issued an inconsequential instruction, with no tangible support, to Eskom demanding that they end loadshedding.
The indecisiveness in this ongoing crisis has brought a heavy toll on the economy, with South Africa escaping a technical recession by a whisker. Recent estimates suggest that economic losses for 2022 due to continuous blackouts have scaled up to R 950 billion.
With no end to Eskom’s woes in sight, the damage to the South African economy is set to breach R 1 trillion before year end for 2022 alone.
Parliament should not abdicate on its responsibilities to hold the Executive to account and should, instead, show leadership during this time of uncertainty when the President has all but abdicated on his responsibilities. South Africans are looking for clear leadership on the electricity crisis and Parliament should not let them down.