South Africa declares a national state of disaster over load shedding

 ·9 Feb 2023

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared load shedding a national state of disaster, with immediate effect.

The Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs gazetted the declaration on Thursday (9 February).

Speaking during his State of the Nation Address (SONA), the president said that the energy crisis in the country has done untold damage to the country and is an existential threat to businesses and the economy.

Through declaring the crisis, the president said that the coordination of addressing the crisis can be focused at a single point.

“The state of disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply,” Ramaphosa said.

Plans for a national state of disaster have been criticised over the past week since Ramaphosa first expressed the governing ANC’s intent to declare one. The main criticism against the declaration is that it would open the floodgates for looting and corruption, as was seen in the past.

Ramaphosa said that the Auditor General will be brought in to track spending and funding involved with the crisis to ensure that money is handled appropriately and so that the same looting that took place during the Covid crisis is not repeated.

Adding to the oversight of the energy crisis, the president said that he would also be establishing a new minister within the presidency to focus exclusively on the crisis.

“Our most immediate task is to reduce the severity of load shedding in the coming months and ultimately eliminate load shedding altogether,” the president said.

He acknowledged that South Africans want action and solutions to the crisis, and they “want the government to work for them”.

While the president said he didn’t have a new long-term plan to resolve the crisis, he said the government was doubling down on the energy plan announced in 2022.

“We are focused on those actions that will make a meaningful difference now and enable real progress in the next year. We are not presenting a new plan, we are concentrating on those issues that concern South Africans the most,” he said.

The minister of Public Enterprises will remain in charge of Eskom, Ramaphosa said, and will continue to oversee its operations. Public enterprises will steer the restructuring of Eskom, ensure the establishment of the transmission company, oversee the implementation of the just energy transition programme, and oversee the establishment of the SOE Holding Company.

Read: Load shedding outlook for 2023 sours

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