'Government will ensure hospitals, schools & police stations are less affected by load-shedding': Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated the government's resolve to keep the lights on. This follows a Pretoria high court order that electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa “take all reasonable steps” — by no later than January 31 — to ensure public hospitals, clinics, schools and police stations are not affected by load-shedding.
Ramaphosa said the government had noted the judgment handed down amid stage six rolling blackouts this week.
“We want our schools and hospitals to have the requisite amount of energy. For us it is a confirmation of our government programme.
“We did say in the court papers that while that is our strategic objective, the issue of energy is affecting all of society and there will be moments when we have load-shedding that affect certain portions of society negatively but we are going to take steps to make sure that hospitals, schools and police stations are less adversely affected.”
Speaking on the sidelines of the UN UN Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), on Saturday, Ramaphosa said the government is addressing the energy challenges through the implementation of the energy action plan.
Ramaphosa was responding to Friday’s unanimous judgment by three judges. Judge Norman Davis said the order was “just and equitable” after the court determined that load-shedding breached several constitutional rights.
TimesLIVE reported the court also declared load-shedding breached the right to human dignity, life, freedom and security of the person, to an environment that was not harmful to people’s health and wellbeing, as well as the right of access to healthcare services, food, water and basic education.
A similar order was granted by the same bench in May, but it was directed at the minister for public enterprises Pravin Gordhan, who appealed against the order.
Davis said in his judgment the minister’s grounds of appeal had been that “the order was alleged to be vague, that it was impossible to implement as the minister did not have the power to generate and supply electricity, that the order was not competent in law for the same reason and that the order violated the separation of powers”.
Ramaphosa said: “The good thing is that we are implementing it (energy action plan) together with various stakeholders including labour, government and business. At a national energy crisis committee level, we have been able to get all government departments to work together, so the plan is working.”
He said the government needs to deal with the “weaknesses that are inherent in Eskom.”
“We are making progress and as we move on to get more qualified people including appointing an Eskom CEO, we will be able to gain more traction and move forward in a much stronger way. I am confident about that.”
Asked whether he was concerned about the slow pace in the appointment of Eskom’s CEO and about Komatipoort where communities have been left behind in the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, Ramaphosa said: “The appointment of people at Eskom is going to happen, and it is not only the CEO that must be appointed but a number of people that must be put in key positions to reposition our energy generation company.”
The government will continue to take action to restructure Eskom so that it’s repositioned into three entities so that it operates more effectively, he said. “That I am certain about.”
On Komatipoort, he said: “We have power stations that have reached the end of their lives and these power stations, whether we like it or not, are going to close. It’s just like a motor vehicle, once it has reached the end of its life, it must stop.
“What we are seeking to do with power stations that have come to the end of their life is to turn them around to see how best we can inject renewable energy and new life into them, and as we do that we always take account of the workers who used to work at those power stations and the communities as well and to do everything that we can to not leave anyone behind.”
This will always be the he said. “I am happy that we have a number of role players in the area who are all looking at how best we can transition from those power stations that are having to close down to more renewable energy.
“I am sure that as we get lessons from this we will transition in a good way. It might never be as perfect as we may want it to be but it could have been much worse.”
Ramaphosa said during the climate change conference South Africa presented its Just Energy Implementation Plan to UN secretary-general António Guterres and the partners who have committed up to $8.5bn in grants, concessionary loans and loans.
“We are calling for more countries to participate as our just energy plan requires much more money so that we can transit in a much more effective and just way, particularly when it comes to those communities that are going to be affected when we transit from fossil fuel sources of energy to renewables.”
He hailed the meeting as a success and downplayed the absence of key ministers such as Ramokgopa and energy minister Gwede Mantashe from the meeting, saying preparatory work was done in the cabinet and various clusters.
This week Ramokgopa received R170m worth of power equipment which included petrol and diesel generators at the Eskom warehouse in Howick in KwaZulu-Natal.
The 450 generators were delivered three months after the Chinese government pledged to donate the equipment to South Africa when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the country for bilateral talks in August.
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