ANC calls for declaration of state of disaster over Eskom crisis

An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

An early morning picture taken at Matla Power Station in Mpumalanga Province. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Published Jan 31, 2023


South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, has directed the government to declare a national State of Disaster at struggling power utility Eskom in a bid to end the ongoing energy crisis.

This was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the conclusion of the ANC National Executive Committee lekgotla in Kempton Park last night.

Ramaphosa said that the commissions at the lekgotla were of the view that ending the energy crisis must be a government and society-wide effort.

The lekgotla tasked Ramaphosa to coordinate the processes to ensure the electricity crisis is addressed the way government had dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that the ANC had thus undertaken to play an active role in mobilising all sections of society behind an urgent Energy Action Plan.

“There is clear direction from the lekgotla that we must resolve the immediate task of load shedding within a much shorter timeframe than what has been projected, and have set out the actions to achieve that.

“There was talk about a National State of Disaster, like what we did when we faced Covid-19, and there is broad agreement that we should proceed in that direction.”

Eskom has plunged the country into its worst bout of power cuts which has crippled economic activity due to significant unplanned breakdowns at its coal-fired power plants.

The power utility has forecast a two-year period in which it would be able to return its Energy Availability Factor back to acceptable levels of 70% as it now languishes below 60%.

Ramaphosa said work was already underway to establish whether the legal requirements for the declaration of a national state of disaster were met.

This work also includes specific actions the government would be empowered to undertake to urgently resolve load shedding within the framework of a national state of disaster.

“This matter will receive attention, including at the Cabinet Lekgotla, and must be resolved without delay. This proposal has been articulated in a number of consultations we have held with various stakeholders,” he said.

“This matter is being addressed with the urgency it requires. This lekgotla has agreed that the coordination of our response also needs to be escalated to the most senior levels of government, and that we need to communicate more clearly and the message should be a singular message so that there is no confusion among our people.”

The recommendation from the ANC that a national state of disaster be declared over Eskom comes long after the Democratic Alliance proposed it.

The DA’s request that a ring-fenced state of disaster on Eskom be declared was to ensure disaster relief funding could be sourced from other departments and government resources, and reprioritized to keep the open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.

DA Parliamentary representative on Public Enterprises Ghaleb Cachalia, said Ramaphosa had initially rejected the idea in favour of the so-called energy action plan.

“[Ramaphosa] is on record as saying "We do not need a state [of]…. national disaster to implement common sense regulations that should help in resolving our energy crisis", Cachalia said.

“The key feature of the president’s current turnabout is ‘to ensure that sufficient financial resources are allocated to end load-shedding.’ It is for this reason that Parliament needs to fulfil the function of watchdog to ensure this does not become yet another opportunity for Covid-like misappropriations by key ANC ministers and officials.

“It is crucial that the envisaged State of Disaster is ring-fenced around Eskom and that it is overseen by an independent panel of suitably qualified experts to ensure probity and transparency,” Cachalia said.