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President Ramaphosa declares State of Disaster to address energy crisis

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national State of Disaster – with immediate effect – as a response to the current energy crisis gripping the country.

Eskom has been battling to keep the lights on for the past few months, leading to increased stages of load shedding and a devastating impact on lives, livelihoods and businesses. The President announced the State of Disaster during the State of the Nation Address at Cape Town City Hall, on Thursday evening.

“In a time of crisis, we need a single point of command and a single line of march. Just as we address the cause of the crisis, we also need to address its impact. The crisis has progressively evolved to affect every part of society.

“We must act to lessen the impact of the crisis on farmers, on small businesses, on our water infrastructure, on our transport network and a number of other areas and facilities that affect our people’s lives.

“In considering all these matters and the crisis that we are in, the National Disaster Management Centre has consequently classified the energy crisis and its impact as a national disaster. We are therefore declaring a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects,” President Ramapohosa said.

The President stressed that the debilitating energy shortage in which the country finds itself requires government to move with increased urgency.

“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. The energy crisis is an existential threat to our economy and social fabric. We must spare no effort, and we must allow no delay, in implementing these measures,” he said.

How it will work

The President explained that the declaration will enable government to “provide practical measures” to assist businesses that have been devastated by the effects of load shedding.

“The state of disaster will enable us to provide practical measures that we need to take to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply.

“Where technically possible, it will also enable us 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 protection as well as procurement principles and technical standards,” he said.

President Ramaphosa assured the public that expenditure related to the State of Disaster will be monitored closely by the Auditor General’s office to guard against “abuse of any funds needed” to address the energy crisis.

Furthermore, a Minister of Energy in the Presidency is expected to be appointed to focus solely on bringing the country out of the current energy deficit.

The Minister of Public Enterprises, however, will remain in charge of Eskom and continue to steer its restructuring and “ensure the establishment of the transmission company, oversee the implementation of the just energy transition programme, and oversee the establishment of the SOE Holding Company”.

“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.

“The Minister will focus full-time and work with the Eskom board and management on ending load shedding and ensuring that the Energy Action Plan is implemented without delay,” he said.