NEWS & ANALYSIS

Speaker must look into flawed rejection of Cheaper Electricity Bill – Kevin Mileham

DA MP says process followed not in keeping with the Rules of Parliament

DA to ask Speaker to look into Parliament’s flawed rejection of Cheaper Electricity Bill 

1 September 2020

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is deeply disappointed in the manner in which the Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) Bill was handled by the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy. The Bill was today rejected by the Portfolio Committee as being “undesirable” and thus will not progress further.

The IEMO Bill, colloquially referred to as the “Cheaper Electricity Bill” was introduced by Democratic Alliance (DA) Chief Whip, Natasha Mazzone, in December 2019, in an effort to create an independent public-private partnership that would manage grid operations, electricity planning, source electricity from a variety of generation plants and sell it to municipal and industrial customers. It was an attempt to create a level playing field between Eskom (as the country’s primary generator) and independent power producers (IPPs).

From the outset, it was clear that the ANC, EFF and IFP were opposed to the bill, with comments such as “we reject this bill with contempt” and “this is an effort to reintroduce apartheid” being bandied about in committee. Even Minister Pravin Gordhan got in on the act: he accused the DA of seeking to expropriate Eskom’s assets into private hands without compensation.

One of the other major criticisms was that the Bill was unconstitutional, in that it sought to those allow metropolitan municipalities, which had the technical and financial capabilities (including having received a clean audit), to source power directly from power producers. No evidence was led as to why this was unconstitutional, nor was an opinion sought from the State Law Advisors or Parliamentary Law Advisors, despite requests from the DA that this be done.

The DA is of the opinion that the process followed is not in keeping with the Rules of Parliament (specifically Rule 286) and will be writing to the Chairperson of Committees, Cedrick Frolick MP, and the Speaker of Parliament, Thandi Modise MP, in this regard. We believe that that committee members had established their positions before the first presentation was made, and thus did not give the Bill the appropriate consideration or deliberation. Furthermore, despite repeated requests from the DA, no effort was made to address the sticking points or to reach any sort of compromise.

This is indicative of the way in which the ANC and EFF in particular have complete disdain for any ideas not born in their own ranks, despite the upside for all South Africans. With loadshedding back in full force, and Eskom predicting that this is likely to remain the case for the rest of this year at the very least, we cannot afford to throttle our economy in any way.

This Bill not only would have opened up South Africa’s electricity supply market, but would have gone a long way to make South Africa an attractive investment. The DA will continue to push for a more open, affordable and efficient electricity sector, and will be taking all possible measures to ensure that this Bill and the proposed independent grid operator see the light of day.

Issued by Kevin Mileham,DA Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, 1 September 2020