Cape Town - South Africa’s energy crisis took centre stage when President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) was debated at the Cape Town City Hall on Tuesday.
MPs from both Houses participated in the debate, with ANC MPs coming to the defence of the commitments made by Ramaphosa while opposition parties tore into his speech.
Last Thursday, Ramaphosa declared a state of disaster to respond to the energy crisis and announced his plan to appoint a minister of electricity.
Opening the debate, ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina said the ANC acknowledged that the national government alone could not solve the myriad challenges and problems affecting the country.
Majodina charged that a lot of hot air on the declaration of state of disaster was being made by opposition parties.
“Critics of this miss the most important element of intervention: the strong co-ordination and decisive actions to deal with the crisis of energy,” she said.
“The president and the government are heeding calls made by the citizens of South Africa that this government must end load shedding, and that this government must stabilise energy throughout by intervening.”
She said the comprehensive plan to attend to electricity challenges should be implemented with immediate effect and the new minister of electricity should act urgently on the matter.
DA leader John Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa had presided over five disastrous years and rolling power blackouts had become a permanent feature of life in the Ramaphosa era.
“Instead of deregulating and unleashing private sector electricity generation, he centralised even more power in his super-presidency.
“Instead of deregulating and nleashing private sector electricity generation, he centralised even more power in his super-presidency.
“Instead of privatising failed stateowned enterprises, he created a massive new SOE to provide fresh looting opportunities to cadres,” he said.
Steenhuisen said Ramaphosa failed to fire Mantashe and Gordhan instead added yet another ministry to his bloated cabinet.
“By once again expanding rather than shrinking the role of the State, the president has all but guaranteed that load shedding and all the other terrible crises we face will only get worse,” he said.
EFF leader Julius Malema laughed off Ramaphosa’s announcement of a Ministry of Electricity, saying they hoped to see ministers of trains, lights, Denel, potholes and GBV. Malema said Ramaphosa had gone against the EFF’s advice.
He said Ramaphosa had gone to his kitchen cabinet and crafted the ministry, which was not derived from resolutions at the ANC conference.
Malema could not understand why minister Pravin Gordhan was not axed from the cabinet.
“I don’t (know) why you are scared of Pravin Gordhan. I don’t know whether he has a list of impimpis or sell-outs from apartheid, the way you are scared of him,” Malema said.
Mineral resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said Ramaphosa had identified load shedding as a crisis but stated that it was solvable.
He said the approach was to communicate a sense of urgency and a desire to resolve the energy crisis.
“We do not have 24 months to resolve load shedding. That is how serious the president takes this crisis,” Mantashe said.
He took a swipe at opposition parties, saying they never wanted to be involved in finding solutions to any crisis but believed that opposition was about opposing anything put on the table by the ANC and its government. “Parties should contribute to finding solutions to problems and crises.”
In a speech delivered on his behalf, IFP’s president emeritus Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi said Ramaphosa spoke of South Africa as being defined by hope and resilience, but anyone on the street would say the definition should be load shedding, unemployment and crime.
He said it was worrying to hear Ramaphosa say that he had discovered a lack of technical and management skills across government.
“We have been warning for years that cadre deployment, at the cost of skills employment, would have its effect.”
Freedom Front Plus leader Petrus Groenewald said Mantashe’s statements that the soon to be appointed minister of electricity would be a “project manager” was saying something.
”The minister does not see the new minister as an equal but only as a project manager,” Groenewald said.
He also said BEE and black affirmative action were some of the reasons for the problems in Eskom.
He said Eskom’s employment equity plan wanted to get rid of white technicians within the next three years.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said the declaration of state of disaster was “about lavish spending, no detail and contradictory information on sorting an absolutely disastrous problem every citizen is facing.”
He decried that five days after Sona no regulations had been sent out.
“If we don’t get the regulation right, the whole thing will fail. This province will play its part,” Winde said.