THE issues of national healthcare and the energy crisis in the country were, among others, the most contentious issues in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address on Thursday.
The Public Service and Commercial Union (PSCU) said on Friday that the president in his common deceptive style again made claims that could not be backed by facts.
In a statement the PSCU said: “The fact is our healthcare is crumbling, our roads are eroding, our infrastructure is completely destroyed, unemployment is at its highest pick while the intake of social grants has reached unprecedented levels.”
The union delved into the healthcare matter saying that it had been reported that over 700 doctors could not be hired due to lack of funds in the Department of Health (DoH). These numbers include doctors that need to be placed for internship and those who have completed their community service but are without jobs.
PSCU General Secretary Tahir Maepa said it was very common for the sick to wait hours upon hours to be attended owing to inadequate staff in the public hospitals.
“Our public health care has become something to be ashamed of lately. The services that were supposed to be for all and especially the poor have seemingly deteriorated over the years and yet this president expects the nation to believe his tales constructed by his imagination that the sick refused private healthcare in favour of the horrors of public healthcare,” Maepa said.
As the Sona was being delivered ponderously for one and half hours, watched by many on phones and other devices in darkness due to load shedding, it amounts to no more than an spectacular exercise in futility, according to the PSCU.
Meanwhile troubled power utility Eskom plunged the country into stage four load shedding just hours after Ramaphosa had promised to end the electricity blackouts.
Eskom’s announcement came about four hours after Ramaphosa had concluded the last Sona of the sixth administration and ahead of the national and provincial elections.
The struggling entity cited the breakdown of two additional generating units, which it took out for service.
In his address, Ramaphosa said his administration set out a clear plan to end load shedding, which it has been implementing with single-minded focus through the national energy crisis committee.
”We have delivered on our commitments to bring substantial new power through private investment onto the grid, which is already helping to reduce load shedding,” he claimed on Thursday.
Ramaphosa expressed confidence that the country was behind the worst, and the end of load shedding is finally within reach.
He said the Electricity Regulation Amendment Bill was tabled last year to support Eskom’s restructuring and establish a competitive electricity market.
However, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu), said it viewed the bill as nothing more than a pathway towards Eskom’s privatisation.
”The reality is that the introduction of independent private power producers has not solved load shedding. Nehawu believes that the provision of electricity for our people should never be based upon the profit motive,” the union stated.
The bill makes provision for Eskom to be unbundled by splitting it into separate companies responsible for generation, transmission and distribution functions, starting with the creation of a new entity, the Transmission System Operator, whose duties, powers and functions will be assigned to the National Transmission Company South Africa.
The proposed statute also provides for the establishment of the Transmission System Operator in order to provide an open-market platform that will allow for competitive electricity trading.
Ramaphosa said his government has implemented sweeping regulatory reforms to enable private investment in electricity generation, with more than 120 new private energy projects now in development.
Cosatu said what the country cannot afford to do is to abandon Eskom.
”It remains our most strategic national asset and must be invested in,” the federation’s parliamentary coordinator and acting national spokesperson Matthew Parks said.
SA Communist Party national spokesperson Dr Alex Mashilo said South Africa needed a public pathway that involves state investment on behalf of the people as a whole in new electric power generation capacity, not least in renewable and other clean electricity.
”This is too important to be left in the hands of profit-driven interests,” he warned.
Freedom Front Plus leader Dr Pieter Groenewald said last year Ramaphosa promised that by the end of 2023 load shedding would be a thing of the past.
Last year, Deputy President Paul Mashatile and Electricity Minister Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa promised that load shedding would end in 2024.
However, on the sidelines of Sona, Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Obed Bapela said load shedding would definitely end around 2025.
”For now we will keep it lower to (stages) one and two. (Stage) three will only arise here and there but in the main it will be between stages one and two,” he said.