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ANC lekgotla urges national state of disaster on Eskom crisis — Cyril Ramaphosa

The ANC wants a state of national disaster to be declared around South Africa’s energy crisis, with the presidency co-ordinating an emergency programme to “ensure that the energy crisis is properly addressed”.

The party’s two day national executive committee (NEC) lekgotla held ahead of a cabinet gathering on Wednesday — and an impending cabinet reshuffle — agreed that the country needed to “move in that direction” to shorten the time needed to address the electricity generation dilemma it faces.

Discussions around the need for such a move have been mooted in government and business circles since the middle of last year and have gained momentum as the crisis worsens, with South Africa in a permanent state of stage four load-shedding at the time of writing.

The lekgotla had discussed the emergency energy plan — and proposals that Eskom and other state-owned entities be moved from the public enterprises to the minerals and energy ministry and other line departments.

The decision would allow Eskom to shorten normal procurement procedures which, if managed properly, could cut down the amount of time the state electricity entity required for maintenance and refurbishment.

In his closing address, President Cyril Ramaphosa said there had been a discussion around the declaration of a state of national disaster, as was done during the Covid-19 pandemic, and there was “general agreement” that this was a necessary step to take.

He said the meeting had agreed that the energy crisis was a threat to national security, the economy and the country’s sovereignty.

The NEC wanted the presidency to “co-ordinate all processes” to speed up responses to shorten the estimated 18 months to two years that Eskom believes will be required to get its fleet of power stations into a fully operational state.

Work was already underway on analysing the legal framework for such a move and what steps could be taken under a state of disaster to address “the challenge that our nation faces”.

Ramaphosa said that, during consultations with the government, a number of roleplayers from business to trade unions and traditional leaders had expressed the need for a state of disaster and the use of extraordinary powers.

The lekgotla believed that a coordinated response, similar to that the government had adopted in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic, would “ensure that the energy crisis is properly addressed”.

The government and the ANC should respond to the crisis with clear, coordinated messaging about the state’s emergency energy plan and the steps being taken to address it to prevent “confusion” over what was being done to stop load-shedding.

Social partners needed to be mobilised around the energy plan, which should be approached with “new impetus” and which should take on board proposals from civil society, business and trade unions as it was implemented, Ramaphosa said.

He said the matter would be discussed at the cabinet lekgotla and would be given serious and urgent attention in the government process.

“It is a matter which should be attended to and resolved without delay,” Ramaphosa said.

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