Government appealing load shedding court ruling to avoid grid collapse – Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO: GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the government’s decision to appeal the court judgment that ordered the exemption of key facilities from load shedding.

Last week, the Pretoria High Court ordered Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan to “take all reasonable steps within 60 days” to make sure there was sufficient electricity supply to all public hospitals, clinics, schools, and police stations.

The judgment, however, will be appealed by the government.

Load shedding appeal

Responding to questions from MPs in the National Assembly on Thursday, Ramaphosa said his administration needed to deal with the practicality of the court ruling.

“The whole process of load shedding is really to manage the grid because when a number of units are not available to generate energy you could be tempted to drive those units and you could drive them to a point of breakdown, therefore, you need to manage it.

“The engineers tell me; we need to limit them from overheating. If they were to overheat because we are driving them all at one go – to generate electricity at its maximum, the grid could collapse,” he explained.

The president said load shedding was the last resort.

“Now we are faced with the court judgment and the impracticality of it all. The process of approaching the court through an appeal is to bring a better understanding of the engineering aspects.

“By the way, it is not being done in an arrogant way where we are trying to second guess the court… it is being done to save the grid.”

‘All hands are on deck’

Ramaphosa also spoke about Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa’s role to address load shedding.

Some opposition parties have expressed their dissatisfaction with Ramokgopa’s appointment to the president’s “bloated” Cabinet.

The parties have questioned whether there were adequate measures in place for Ramokgopa to account to Parliament.

Ramaphosa insisted that Ramokgopa’s role was to oversee all aspects of the electricity crisis plaguing the country and ensure the speedy implementation of the government’s energy action plan in order to reduce load shedding within the shortest possible time.

“The preoccupation of the minister is to the performance of Eskom’s existing base-load fleet to maximise the performance and output of peaking stations and reduce demand through an aggressive demand-side management programme.

“This work is being undertaken alongside measures that are being put in place to sustainably and urgently increase the construction of new generation capacity, which is underway,” he said on Thursday.

“So, all hands are on deck as far as our energy situation is concerned.”

He promised that Ramokgopa’s delegation of tasks to deal with load shedding would be set out “very shortly”.

“When [the national state of disaster] was withdrawn, it did not mean that the minister does not have the tools and capability to be able to do his work.”

Ramaphosa maintained that the responsibility for issues around energy policy remained with Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

Oversight

The president highlighted that it was up to Parliament to decide how to exercise its oversight function on the electricity minister.

“We have said that the executive is accountable to Parliament, and therefore, it falls on this Parliament to work out those mechanisms. Locating the ministry in the Presidency does not by any means diminish the issue of accountability.”

He mentioned the fact that Ramokgopa was not the only minister whose work was lodged in the Presidency.

“Putting a ministry in the Presidency… is meant to enhance the work that needs to be done.”

Ramaphosa also said there was “no turf war” within his Cabinet in reference to reports of power struggles between Ramokgopa, Mantashe, and Gordhan.

George Herald