Stage 6 rolling blackouts: President Ramaphosa must cancel international trip and address Parliament on energy crisis
This evening’s announcement that Eskom will implement unprecedented stage 6 rolling blackouts across South Africa is devastating news for our already struggling economy and fatal to both economic growth and job creation. Given the gravity of the situation, the time for platitudes from President Ramaphosa and dithering from Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe is long past. The country is asking what exactly is going on, and we deserve full transparency on this threat to national stability.
In these extraordinary circumstances, we call for Parliament to urgently be reconvened in order for President Ramaphosa to address Parliament and the nation on this escalating crisis. The President must come clean on exactly what the structural problems at Eskom are and how his government plans to address them within the coming days. In this light, the President should swiftly postpone his upcoming international trip to Egypt, scheduled for tomorrow, 10 December. There is severe trouble at home, and Ramaphosa must attend to that ahead of all other engagements.
The dire situation escalates by the day – citizens and businesses are caught unaware and we have no sight of any viable solution. Despite this, Minister Mantashe is sitting with at least seventeen section 34 applications for private generation and purchase of electricity on his desk waiting to be signed – from municipalities, mines and corporations. If the Minister signed just one of these applications he would signal to the market that the door is open for Independent Power Producers (IPPs), ensuring cheaper and more secure energy is available to consumers.
However, Mantashe refuses, and remains the single biggest obstacle in the way of genuine reform of electricity generation and supply, leaving South Africans at the complete mercy of the moribund Eskom. If the President cannot instruct Mantashe to act now, in the interests of the nation, then he should replace him as Energy Minister.
South Africa’s only hope is for government to start planning for a post-Eskom future. This is precisely why the DA-led City of Cape Town is taking Minister Mantashe to court to compel him to allow the city to purchase energy directly from IPPs. Instead of stifling these applications, and with them any prospect of economic growth, Mantashe should immediately release the next call for IPPs.
South Africa and its sustainability cannot be held ransom to the outdated ideologies that clearly dominate Mantashe's mind. The old ways will no longer do, only innovation and new ideas are going to rescue our future. The DA is championing this innovation in Parliament with the recent tabling of our “Cheaper Electricity Bill” which provides the legislative framework to lower the cost of electricity and stamp out rolling blackouts – both of which are critical to the performance of our economy. We will continue to push for its adoption and implementation.
The announcement of Stage 6 rolling blackouts for the first time in our history is a strong signal that Eskom is on its knees. The time for dithering is over: we demand the President urgently provides the nation with a full report.
Statement issued by John Steenhuisen MP - DA Leader, 10 December 2019