Unblock Frankfort's bid for energy independence – John Steenhuisen

DA leader on side of decentralised approach which empowers independent power producers to generate and sell electricity

DA writes to Ramokgopa to unblock Frankfort's bid for energy independence

8 August 2023

Democratic Alliance Federal Leader, John Steenhuisen, today met with Rural Maintenance in the town of Frankfort in the Mafube Local Municipality as part of the party’s civil society outreach project.

In its pursuit of energy independence from Eskom, Rural Maintenance has been subjected to a long and deliberately drawn-out process in which collusion between Mafube and Eskom continues to deny Rural Maintenance and Frankfort’s residents the authority to generate their own electricity, manage the town’s loadshedding schedule, and ultimately help solve South Africa’s electricity crisis.

Accompanied by DA Free State Provincial Leader, Roy Jankielsohn, and DA Free State Provincial Chairperson, Werner Horn, Steenhuisen visited two of the Rural Maintenance solar plants built to allow the town of Frankfort to become energy independent.

However, by using their licensee privileges and transmission monopolies, Mafube and Eskom have locked Frankfort into Eskom's loadshedding vice grip and frustrated any attempts by organised communities to generate electricity, wheel it back into the grid, and ease the effects of load shedding on residents.

Given that this untenable dispute has now reached a stalemate at the hands of Eskom and ANC obstinance, the DA will now be writing to the Minister of Electricity Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, to urgently intervene in the matter as per his mandate to provide for private sector participation in South Africa’s new electricity generation capacity.

Frankfort is now ground zero for energy independence in South Africa, and the DA is firmly on the side of a decentralised approach which empowers independent power producers to generate and sell electricity as a means to augment supply across the country and end load shedding.

Eskom and ANC governments across South Africa must, according to Section 34(2) of the Electricity Regulation Act, facilitate new generation capacity, in consultation with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), to address severe supply shortages which have led to 15 years of rolling blackouts.

It is unfathomable that in the midst of an electricity crisis, the ANC and Eskom would obfuscate the work of willing residents and communities to solve the problem.

Eskom had previously granted a request by Rural Maintenance to generate and wheel electricity into the grid, but not without the concurrence of the Mafube Local Municipality as the holder of the licence or Electricity Supply Agreement.

It is now alleged that Mafube is stalling and trying to cancel the agreement initially signed.

Instead of partnering with Rural Maintenance to protect Frankfort’s residents from the debilitating effects of Eskom’s load-shedding, Mafube has chosen to sit back and watch a major investment to end load-shedding go to waste.

We can no longer allow the very same ANC policy and state monopolies which created South Africa’s electricity crisis, to now prevent tangible means to solve it.

Minister Ramokgopa must urgently intervene in this matter if he is truly committed to ending load shedding.

As part of the DA’s Whole-Of-Society approach, we believe that civil society and organised communities such as Rural Maintenance have a vital role to play in governance and service delivery across the country.

It is these kinds of partnerships that will help rebuild South Africa under a new national coalition government in 2024, where dedicated residents will have to plug the gaping skills and expertise holes in South Africa’s public service left by rampant ANC corruption and cadre deployment.

The work undertaken by Rural Maintenance in Frankfort is a prime example of this project.

The project undertaken by Rural Maintenance and the residents of Frankfort is one which should be supported and replicated in municipalities across South Africa.

Only by diversifying South Africa’s energy market and opening up the generation capacity, can South Africa truly work towards ending load shedding.

Frankfort will be the pioneer in this fight and the DA will continue to support a free and competitive approach which wrestles power away from Eskom and the ANC and places it in the power of South Africans where it belongs.

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 8 August 2023