ANC leaders raise alarm over energy crisis

Amid the recent bout of blackouts, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) has urged the government to speed up energy sector reforms “to alleviate the plight of South Africans”.

This is according to a statement on the outcomes of the NEC meetings held last weekend and Monday. 

“The NEC, with grave concern, deliberated on the energy security crisis facing our country and the devastating impact of load-shedding on households, communities and businesses and on national prospects for economic growth,” the statement said.

Last week, the country was plunged into stage six load-shedding when Eskom workers embarked on an unprotected strike. Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said last week that labour and management were close to finding a resolution, putting Eskom on the path to recovery. A wage deal was signed on Tuesday.

In a statement announcing the settlement, Eskom said: “It is important to note that while the workforce is returning to work, the system will still take some time to recover. As a result of the strike, maintenance work has had to be postponed, and this backlog will take time to clear.”

According to the ANC statement, the NEC emphasised the need for immediate and longer-term interventions to solve the country’s energy crisis. The NEC also urged that higher stages of load-shedding, which the country has recently been saddled with, be avoided.

“Whilst recognising the need to protect the stability of the national electricity grid through load-shedding measures, the NEC called for this to be confined to lower stages and to be phased out in the medium to long term.”

The NEC called on Eskom to consider increasing maintenance to improve the availability of the existing power supply and to acquire the appropriate skills to do so. 

Moreover, the government and Eskom should facilitate private investment in new generation capacity, speed up the repurposing of power stations for alternative energy, accelerate the procurement of battery storage, empower municipalities to procure additional electricity and encourage business and households to invest in renewables.

According to reports, on Monday NEC members expressed their dissatisfaction with Gordhan. The Mail & Guardian reported that sources who attended the NEC meeting said a call was made for Eskom to be moved to Gwede Mantashe’s energy department. 

The M&G was further told that Mantashe said he would not take the blame for Eskom’s problems. Mantashe, in his capacity as the minister of energy, is responsible for the procurement of new energy capacity.

On Tuesday evening, Gordhan’s department released a statement alleging that the media “is being fed false stories of the recent ANC NEC meeting and its discussions about Eskom and the current energy situation”. 

The statement suggested the sources behind those reports were seeking to use Eskom and the country’s energy crisis “for their own nefarious political objectives”.

“As we work hard to stabilise the generation and distribution of electricity in the country, South Africans deserve the truth, not fake news and misleading news reports … Those

spreading fake and misleading news do not have the interest of the country and its

people at heart,” the statement said.

“We urge media to desist from publishing fake news and misinformation that misleads

the public. Whilst some want to make Eskom a ‘political football’, there are determined efforts to address the current energy challenges and stabilising the grid to ensure the security of electricity supply in the country.”

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