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Andile Sicetsha | 31 January 2023

A national state of disaster could go a long way in fast-tracking Eskom's recovery. Here's how.

President Cyril Ramaphosa may turn to drastic measures and declare Eskom‘s energy crisis a national state of disaster, the public heard on Monday evening.

Eskom could be declared a national state of disaster.

As reported by Business Day, Ramaphosa made these remarks at the closing of the ANC’s Cabinet lekgotla.

At this juncture, the president explained, there is a consensus among ANC leaders and alliance partners that extraordinary interventions may be necessary to save South Africa from a disastrous energy crisis, and the Disaster Management Act could hold the key to fast-tracking the government’s response to Eskom’s woes.

“This lekgotla has agreed that the co-ordination 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 president explained.

Eskom has been rotationally implementing loadshedding for more than 15 years consecutively, with no hope of an end in sight, as the utility battles internal leadership issues, skills shortages, corruption and a 10-figure debt backlog.

Recently, the power utility had, after numerous attempts, strong-armed the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) into approving an 18.5% tariff increase, which, in the 11th hour, was intercepted by the president.

It seems, the only way out of rampant loadshedding that has gotten so bad, Gauteng could suffer a reservoir blackout if outages continue at escalated stages, is declaring Eskom a national state of disaster.

It remains unclear when this declaration will be made final, as Ramaphosa has yet to return with an update on Monday’s gob-smacking revelations.

Here’s what it means for the electricity supplier

The last time the Disaster Management Act was used to bypass bureaucratic hurdles was at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, back in March 2020.

At the time, Cogta Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma enacted Section 27(1) to “declare a national state of disaster having recognised that special circumstances exist to warrant the declaration…”

The Act allowed the minister to bypass certain limitations contained in several Cabinet portfolios and have far-reaching access to the National Treasury.

Quoted by Business Day, the DA’s shadow minister of public enterprises Kevin Mileham provided a clearer explanation of the impact such a declaration would have on Eskom.

“The immediate outcome of a ring-fenced state of disaster is that it will enable the government to bypass its own self-imposed obstacles, bottlenecks and cost inflations in the form of unworkable labour legislation, localisation requirements, cadre deployment, and preferential procurement,” he explained.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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