Loadshedding is a disaster, but does it call for a National State of Disaster?

  • The ANC is in the process of deciding whether a National State of Disaster is warranted given the current energy crisis.
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa has said the crisis must be addressed by government and society at large.
  • It isn’t clear what measures would be put in place to address the crisis.

All the way back in March 2020, many South Africans experienced a National State of Disaster for the first time. This gave government the ability to make decisions and declarations as it needed.

Now, President Cyril Ramaphosa is mulling the idea of declaring a National State of Disaster once again this time to more quickly address the energy crisis at Eskom.

Speaking at the ANC National Executive Committee Lekgotla on Monday, Ramaphosa said that resolving the energy crisis must involve both government and society.

“There is clear direction from the lekgotla that we must resolve the immediate task of load shedding within a much shorter timeframe than what has been projected, and has set out the actions to achieve that. There was talk about a National State of Disaster, like what we did when we faced COVID-19, and there is broad agreement that we should proceed in that direction,” said the President.

Government is currently assessing whether the legal requirements for the declaration of a National State of Disaster are being met. Furthermore, government is assessing what actions must be taken to resolve the crisis.

A National State of Disaster gives government a number of abilities including controlling the movement of people, redirecting resources and personnel, and much more. As we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic, government had the ability to limit the sale of alcohol, tobacco products and other items such as hot food. A curfew was also put in place to keep people from mingling.

“This Lekgotla has agreed that the coordination 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 Lekgotla said the President must coordinate all these processes to ensure the electricity crisis is addressed like we did with COVID-19,” Ramaphosa added.

What the president didn’t make clear was how government would leverage a National State of Disaster to speed up resolution of the crisis at Eskom. Last week the utility said that it needed at least 24 months to address the matter of persistent loadshedding.

In addition, it’s not clear how a national state of disaster for Eskom would impact citizens on the ground beyond more aggressive power cuts. Of course, more power cuts means a greater risk of economic damage given smaller businesses may not have the ability to survive without electricity.

While South Africans are no doubt itching for a resolution to power cuts which have plagued the country since September 2022, the power granted to the government during a National State of Disaster is extreme.

For now, the ANC is mulling this over but it’s a matter we’re keeping an eye on.

[Via – Daily Maverick]


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