Taxpayers foot the bill for more generators for ministers

 ·2 Dec 2022

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure has replaced 13 generators at ministers’ homes, with more still to be purchased.

Responding in a written parliamentary Q&A this week, the department said that the 13 generators at ministers’ homes were replaced due to redundancy and the fact that the old generators were too costly to maintain.

It added that one more generator was purchased for a minister in November, with three more in the procurement stage.

The department has spent almost R800,000 running the generators since 1 July 2022, it said.

According to City Press, the department spent R1.3 million in 2021 installing generators at ministers’ homes, and another R681,000 in the first half of this year.

The cost of running these generators has risen from R31,750 in 2021 to R1.4 million in 2022, taking into account the R621,000 spent in the first half of the year and the R784,135 spent since 1 July.

The generators were installed to assist ministers and deputy ministers in avoiding load shedding at their private homes. This is for homes that fall outside of the official residences in the Bryntirion Estate in Pretoria, which does not experience load shedding at all.

Ministers enjoying a life free of load shedding – at the taxpayers’ expense – has drawn the public’s ire over the last years, particularly as the energy crisis in the country has deteriorated further in 2022, and vital services like hospitals are not all exempt.

The escalating costs of running the generators at ministers’ houses reflect the high levels of load shedding South Africa has had to endure in 2022 – currently the worst year on record.

According to load shedding notification app, EskomSePush, South Africa has experienced around 3,000 hours of load shedding this year, over 124 days, cumulatively. Load shedding is currently at stage 2 during evening peaks, but has been implemented daily since 10 October.

In the parliamentary response, the department noted that not all minister houses are equipped with generators – meanwhile, the Department of Health has been making efforts to exempt more hospitals from load shedding.

At the end of November, the health department said it was “on the right track”, exempting facilities from load shedding as part of plans to minimise the disruptions in the provision of essential health services during power outages.

The department and Eskom have implemented exemptions for North West Hospitals, which include Taung Hospital and Ganyesa Hospital, and this has pushed the total number of exempted from 72 to 77.

“This is a work-in-progress, and the inclusion of North West hospitals is part of the commitment made by the minister of health Dr Joe Phaahla that no province will be left behind,” it said.

Although due to technical challenges, some health facilities will take time to be exempted, the department said.

In addition to hospital exemptions, the department said that it is working with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to conduct a feasibility study on the roll-out of solar panels in critical areas in health facilities as part of the energy mix to mitigate the impact of load shedding and overstraining the backup generators.

Read: Government considering solar for hospitals in South Africa

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