Eskom: Declare load-shedding a national crisis - Mmusi Maimane

DA PL says grid must also be opened to IPPs, and a moratorium placed on bonuses for SOE's execs

Declare load-shedding a national crisis and act now 

8 December 2014

Note to editors: The following remarks were delivered by DA Parliamentary Leader Mmusi Maimane MP outside the Public Enterprise Ministry in Pretoria today, where the DA submitted demands for addressing the national electricity crisis.

The DA has this morning submitted a detailed list of demands to the Minister of Public Enterprise, Lynne Brown, calling for immediate action on the national electricity crisis. 

South Africans cannot continue to suffer from load-shedding while government and Eskom deny the existence of a national crisis.

Yesterday Eskom CEO Tshediso Matona stated that "There is no crisis at Eskom. I think the way Eskom gets reported on creates the perception of a crisis."

South Africans know that it is completely untrue that we are not facing a crisis. This crisis has touched the daily lives of all South Africans, and affects every aspect of our existence including our transport infrastructure, our water supply, our hospitals and our schools.

Minister Lynne Brown has asked us to be patient but this is simply not good enough. South Africans are angry with the failure of government to provide this most basic need. 

That is why the DA is submitting these demands today on behalf of all South Africans who are suffering the consequences of this crisis.

The old, the sick, the entrepreneurs, educators and learners, sports teams, business people, artists and artisans - South Africans one and all - are facing an avoidable crisis capable of stealing our chances to get ahead, to get well, to learn and to live.

Our ageing power stations are currently not able to produce enough electricity for all South Africans. Since 2008, load-shedding has cost the economy an estimated R300 billion. Thousands have lost their jobs as businesses have had to scale down, or scale back on investments. In addition to this, our international reputation as an investment destination has been seriously damaged by government's inability to service the country's energy needs. 

To make matters worse, President Jacob Zuma has been missing in action as the economy teeters on the brink. It is an indictment of his leadership that, after weeks of sustained load-shedding, he is yet to speak out on any solutions, or even raise his concern for the people who are suffering from his government's inaction.

In the absence of any leadership coming from President Zuma or Minister Brown, the DA has submitted a list of demands to the Department of Public Enterprise this morning. We urge the Minister in the strongest possible terms to implement these solutions without delay. 

If the DA were in government today, we would immediately take the following steps to respond to the crisis:

1. Declare load-shedding a national crisis:

The President, the Public Enterprise Minister and Eskom must come clean and acknowledge that load-shedding is indicative of a national electricity crisis. Now more than ever we need to see transparency and honesty from government on the full extent of the crisis, and the plans in place to solve it. 

2. Open the grid to independent power producers:

We have an electricity shortage. We need everyone who is able to generate electricity to contribute to the grid so that we can meet rising demand. 

There are numerous independent power producers who could be contributing to the national grid within months, but they are prevented from doing so as long as the Independent System and Market Operator (ISMO) Bill is not signed into law.

This Bill will provide the legal and regulatory framework for independent power producers to contribute to the grid, but it continues to gather dust on President Zuma's desk. A DA government would sign this Bill into law with the utmost urgency and open the market to independent power producers immediately. 

Given the pressure ISMO will take off Eskom and all South Africans suffering from load-shedding, we expect Minister Brown to show solidarity by pushing for the signing of this Bill without any further delay.

3. Place a moratorium on bonuses for Eskom executives:

Former Eskom CEO Brian Dames earned R23 million last year while load-shedding continued to hit households and businesses with greater intensity. We cannot continue to pay Eskom executives exorbitant bonuses as the country suffers with load shedding. 

Eskom must show commitment to freezing any intended bonus payments to its executives until South Africa's power generating capacity exceeds demand by at least a 15% reserve margin.

4. Implement tax benefits for purchasing generators:

Load-shedding is forcing businesses and households to buy generators to meet their electricity needs. This exorbitant expense can be directly attributed to Eskom's failure to provide the basic service of electricity. Government therefore has a responsibility to assist South Africans in acquiring generators. 

The DA proposes that all expenses on purchasing generators be made tax deductible as a matter of urgency. Minister Brown, as the presiding authority over Eskom, should be at the forefront of negotiating these tax deductions with the National Treasury to see their inclusion in the forthcoming budget.

5. Follow a "World Cup" approach to finishing the Medupi and Kusile power stations as fast as possible:

Government must proclaim Medupi and Kusile to be projects of vital national importance, and adopt a "World Cup" approach to ensuring their speedy completion. 

Medupi should have been online by 2007/8 already, yet experts estimate that it will not even reach 10% of its promised capacity to generate electricity by late next year.

Every possible step must be taken to prevent further work stoppages and disruptions at the power plants. No further strikes can be tolerated, and if necessary government must enact regulations to bar labour disruptions at Medupi and Kusile.

Furthermore, a national grid maintenance programme must be implemented as a major priority without delay. The slow deterioration of Eskom's national transmission grid, due to a lack of proper maintenance, is an equally serious long term issue that requires urgent intervention. Government must tackle the generation capacity and distribution problems together in order to ensure stable power supply.

Energy is the lifeblood of our economy. South Africa, as a modern economy competing in a global market, needs a constant, reliable flow of electricity so that industry, enterprises and families can go about their business efficiently. 

The energy crisis could have been averted if government had taken the appropriate action when it was warned about the impending disaster in 1998.

Now that it is already too late, government must stop denying that this is a crisis and take urgent action to restore the sustainability of our energy supply. 

As long as this crisis continues our economy will not proposer, we will not see an increase in jobs and we will not be closer to tackling poverty in our country.

We call on Minister Brown to act decisively on the matter and implement the demands of the DA for the sake of all South Africans who suffer from this desperate situation.

Statement issued by Mmusi Maimane MP, DA Parliamentary Leader, December 9 2014

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