DA to push for answers on power cuts

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Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Cape Town - Opposition parties will continue to push for the truth behind the enforced power cut “crisis” before the elections, the DA said on Monday.

The Democratic Alliance and the Independent Democrats called for an investigation into the bonuses paid to Eskom executives, as part of a range of measures to counter the cuts.

“We're appalled to learn that, over two years, R31 million of taxpayers' money has gone into paying bonuses to Eskom executives and we'll be asking the Public Service Commission (PSC) to investigate that and to find why they were authorised and whether it was appropriate and deserved under the circumstances,” said DA leader Helen Zille.

Asked whether the PSC had the authority to probe Eskom, Zille said that if the matter did not fall within the commission's mandate, the DA would ask the Public Protector to investigate.

Zille also questioned the annual hikes in electricity costs when Eskom was clearly failing in its duty to provide adequate power to households and businesses.

“What we've seen coming together is a government that is failing to meet its obligations, but periodically insisting that the public meet their obligations...,” she said.

The parties would also ask the National Energy Regulator of SA to investigate the causes of the recent power outages.

“Nersa conducted an investigation into the causes of the 2008 crisis and that was in fact a very good investigation and it was helpful in identifying Eskom's specific failures and pinpointing those who were culpable,” said ID MP Lance Greyling.

Another attempt, under the Promotion of Access of Information Act, to gain access to all contracts and sub-contracts related to the Medupi power station would also be made.

The power station was meant to come on line last year, but construction was delayed for a number of reasons including the failure of sub-contractors to meet their contractual obligations.

“If they do not accede to our request, we will consider legal action to gain access to this documentation,” DA MP Natasha Michael said.

The re-introduction of the Independent System and Market Operator (ISMO) bill, which was completed by a Parliamentary committee last year and had still not been debated in the National Assembly, would become a DA priority.

A motion to debate the bill would be tabled in Parliament.

“If this motion is defeated once again, we'll table the ISMO bill ourselves as a private members' bill,” Greyling said.

The bill removes the operation of the electricity grid from Eskom and locates it in a new independent entity.

The DA also wants Parliamentary hearings into South Africa's preferential electricity supply agreements with neighbouring states.

South Africa regularly supplies power to Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

“There is no good reason why these agreements should not be put on hold or cancelled responsibly, immediately to alleviate our current energy shortage. It is unacceptable... that we continue to supply electricity to neighbouring countries when we cannot supply our own country sufficiently,” DA MP Wilmot James said.

James argued that the amount of electricity supplied to other countries could have prevented last week's outages.

Sapa


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