President Cyril Ramaphosa has informed Members of Parliament during the State of the Nation Address last night that government has declared a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects. “The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has just gazetted the Declaration of the State of Disaster, which will begin with immediate effect,” he said.

President Ramaphosa said the state of disaster will enable government to provide practical measures that are needed to support businesses in food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply.

He believes the national state of disaster, where technically possible, will enable government to exempt critical infrastructure such as hospitals and water treatment plants from load shedding. “It will enable us to accelerate energy projects and limit regulatory requirements while maintaining rigorous environmental protections, procurement principles and technical standards,” he said.

The President said the Auditor-General will be brought in to ensure continuous monitoring of expenditure, in order to guard against any abuses of the funds needed to attend to this disaster. He informed Members of Parliament that he plans to appoint a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency. “To deal more effectively and urgently with the challenges that confront us, I will appoint a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency to assume full responsibility for overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee,” he said.

The Minister of Electricity will focus full-time on and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay. He also clarified that the Minister of Public Enterprises will remain the shareholder representative of Eskom and steer the restructuring of Eskom, ensure the establishment of the transmission company, oversee the implementation of the just energy transition programme, and oversee the establishment of the state-owned entity holding company.

By Faith Ndenze
10 February 2023