The government aims to find a solution to end the ongoing energy crisis sooner than expected due to the devastating impact of rotational power cuts on the economy.
This was the word from Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele yesterday as the government held crisis talks at the two-day Cabinet lekgotla aimed at finding a lasting solution to load shedding.
The talks come a week after the ANC national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla proposed that the government should declare a national state of disaster in a bid to unlock all resources to assist Eskom to keep the lights on.
Gungubele said work was under way to improve the performance of power stations to reduce stages of load shedding, and to bring more capacity onto the grid as quickly as possible.
He said the government was investigating whether the ongoing energy crisis fulfilled the legal requirements for the declaration of a national state of disaster.
In 2020, the government declared a national state of disaster which lasted more than two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This empowered the government to take drastic measures, including restrictions on travel and gatherings in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus, and injected a stimulus package to subsidise businesses and workers that lost income during this period.
“I have asked my team to analyse the impact of the State of Disaster. We hope to, in a short space of time, give a report and what the government does with that is not in my hands,” Gungubele said.
“There is a strong desire in the government to find ways of ending load shedding as quickly as possible. There are a lot of interventions. We are fast-tracking emergency power, the issue of skills and upping the ante in terms of maintaining the plants.
“Those are issues that are within our hands. Of course there is a call that a State of Disaster declaration could help us jump other processes, which sometimes do not respond to the situation.
“There is a legal base that needs to be fulfilled, investigations are being done. I hope we will be advised as quickly as possible in a manner that is consistent with the crisis that we are confronted with.”
The Presidency said the lekgotla would allow the national executive to review the performance of the government against targets and objectives set in 2022.
It said the lekgotla resolutions would form the basis of the State of the Nation Address, which President Cyril Ramaphosa will deliver to a Joint Sitting of the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces, to be convened in the Cape Town City Hall on February 9.
“It is also a platform for the national leadership to agree on key actions that are needed this year to advance the country’s economic recovery and long-term development, with the resolution of the electricity crisis as the top priority,” the Presidency said on Thursday.
The proposal for the declaration of a national state of disaster has drawn harsh criticism from economists and political parties who fear that the government will have carte blanche.
However, the portfolio committee on public enterprises has welcomed the proposal, saying it would assist Eskom to manage the energy crisis.
Power cuts are forecast to slash 2 percentage points in South Africa’s gross domestic product growth this year alone, even as sub-Saharan African economies grow, as economic activity grinds to a halt during load shedding.
Eskom has struggled to keep its energy generating capacity to acceptable levels due to severe unplanned breakdowns at its ageing coal-fired power plants and diesel shortages for Open-Gas Cycle Turbines (OGCT) emergency units.
Eskom's acting head of generation, Thomas Conradie, said the utility would revert to stage 4 load shedding from Friday, and stage 3 load shedding would “hopefully” be implemented on Saturday after it announced an indefinite stage 5 load shedding during the week.
“We will then assess the situation again to see units that have returned (to service),” Conradie said.
“We are still dispatching OCGT very swiftly in order to both deal with the peaks and also when we are experiencing unforeseen losses to make up for (loss of) capacity. We have secured funding for what we believe is the diesel requirements for the remainder of the financial year,” he said.