Sona 2023: Ramaphosa announces a national state of disaster

President Cyril Ramaphosa. PHOTO: Nigel Sibanda

President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster, to respond to the electricity crisis.

Ramaphosa said he will appoint a minister of electricity in the Presidency and the minister will focus full-time on working with Eskom to end load shedding.

The President made the announcement on Thursday, 9 February during his State Of The Nation Address (Sona).

“The National Disaster Management Centre has consequently classified the energy crisis and
its impact as a disaster. We are therefore declaring a national state of disaster to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects,” said Ramaphosa.

Immediate effect
The President said that Minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had just gazetted the declaration of the state of disaster, which will begin with immediate effect.

According to him, the state of disaster will enable the government to provide practical measures needed to support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain as well as the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply.

Critical infrastructure exempted
“Where technically possible, it will enable us to exempt critical infrastructure such as hospitals
and water treatment plants from load shedding. And it will enable us to accelerate energy projects and limit regulatory requirements while maintaining rigorous environmental protections, procurement principles and technical standards.”

Finances in good hands
Ramaphosa assured that the financial aspect of this matter would be in good hands as the auditor-general would be brought in to ensure continuous monitoring of expenditure to guard against the misuse of funds.

Minister of electricity
A minister of electricity in the Presidency will also be appointed to oversee all the aspects of this crisis and work with the Eskom board and management to end load shedding and ensure the energy action plan is.
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.

However, Minister of Public Enterprises will remain the shareholder representative of Eskom and control the restructuring of Eskom, ensure the establishment of the transmission company, oversee the implementation of the just energy transition programme.

“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.

Legal action
Earlier on Thursday, trade union Solidarity warned that it would pursue legal action if President Cyril Ramaphosa instituted a state of disaster due to the ongoing energy crisis in his State of the Nation Address (Sona).

The union said in statement there is not a single element of the energy crisis that has its origins in the limitation of state powers, and it is precisely the government’s jealous clinging to its monopoly in this sector that is the root cause of the crisis.

Siphumelele Khumalo/The Citizen