Government explains why it doesn’t need the state of disaster anymore

 ·5 Apr 2023

Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Thembi Nkadimeng says that the national state of disaster is no longer needed because enough has been done to get the government ready to deal with the energy crisis.

The department gazetted the termination of the state of disaster on Wednesday (5 April) just two months after it was declared.

In a media briefing explaining why the state of disaster has been terminated, Nkadimeng said that the government is satisfied that measures introduced under the state of disaster are sufficient enough to equip the government with the tools it needs to address the crisis.

However, it remains unclear what measures were put in place.

The minister said that since the state of disaster was declared on 9 February 2023, the government has adopted a “wide range” of mitigation efforts, including the Energy Action Plan (EAP) and appointing a new minister of electricity to deal with matters relating to the crisis.

Neither of these measures are related to the state of disaster at all, however.

The EAP was first presented to South Africa in 2022 and repeated as a new plan in January. This has been a long-standing plan of action forwarded by the presidency as a solution to the crisis.

The appointment of the minister of electricity was done during a cabinet reshuffle in early March and has no link to the state of disaster.

The only measures taken under the state of disaster specifically were the draft block exemption regulations for Energy Suppliers 2023 by the Department of Trade and Industry and Competition, as well as a directive to Icasa by the Department of Communications to ensure services continue.

When asked what measures had been put in place under the state of disaster, Nkadimeng said that many other smaller measures were taken, mostly at a local government level, relating to hospitals and schools being able to get access to mitigation efforts much faster.

According to electricity minister, Kgosientsho Ramokgopa – who is now in charge of dealing with the crisis – these exemptions and directives will remain in place even though the state of disaster is over.

He also noted that some of the bigger measures – such as Eskom being granted an exemption to speed up the Kusile Power Station’s return to service – were done outside of the Disaster Management Act, again raising the question of why the state of disaster was needed at all.

The ministers could not provide relevant or detailed examples of how the state of disaster was used to mitigate load shedding.

Defending the state of disaster, deputy Cogta minister Parks Tau said that the measure was declared at a time when load shedding stages were escalating, and periods of outages were becoming longer.

A decision was made to declare a state of disaster to deal with the crisis, he said.

However, he stressed that the state of disaster was under constant review. Given that there is now a dedicated ministry to focus on the prevailing crisis, and mitigation efforts can be executed without “extraordinary” measures in place, there is no longer a need for the state of disaster, he said.

Litigation also factored into the decision, he admitted. “If we don’t need the state of disaster, do we need to be in court? It doesn’t make sense.”

The department and government at large were facing ligation from civil society groups challenging the state of disaster on the basis that it was irrational and unnecessary.

Critics and opponents of the declaration have argued that the government has always been equipped with the necessary tools it needs to address the crisis. It would appear that the government now agrees.

Read: South Africa’s national state of disaster is officially over

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