The Democratic Alliance (DA) says the basic take away from a media briefing this week by Matona was that power outages are here and here to stay; and that there is not much to be done. The current situation at Eskom is damaging to the South African economy and South African families who have to structure their daily lives around Eskom’s load shedding schedule. It is simply shocking that President Zuma and Public Enterprise Minister, Lynne Brown, are missing in action while the country’s economy is in turmoil.
South Africa needs an urgent response to ensure that the lights stay on, but that also makes provision for the long term sustainability of our electricity generation capacity.
Load shedding is jeopardising countless jobs, and it cannot be tolerated this casually. It is shameful that South Africans are now expected to deal with load shedding as if it were unforeseen and inevitable. The ANC (short for African National Corruption) government, through mismanagement and failure to plan ahead, have brought it to this point.
Trade union Solidarity also made a public appeal to all South Africans, including politicians and public figures, to unite to alleviate the prevailing electricity supply crisis.
Solidarity says South Africa’s electricity crisis is bigger than initially anticipated and will last for a long time. The trade union said that although the crisis was Eskom’s doing, it is in everyone’s interest to keep the lights on.
Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann said during a press conference in Pretoria that no one in South Africa can be indifferent to the Eskom crisis. “The forest is on fire and people can’t say they won’t catch fire because they’re not trees. For this reason, Solidarity calls on South Africans at all levels to unite in the electricity crisis and to create a culture of electricity saving,” Hermann said.
Solidarity calls on business leaders, cultural leaders, community leaders and political leaders among others to use every possible platform to urge South Africans to save electricity. “We call on President Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema to unite in this crisis; we call on the DA and the ANC; on Renate Barnard and the Police Service; Cosatu and Numsa, Amcu and the platinum industry; and Steve Hofmeyr and Conrad Koch. I will personally contact Jimmy Manyi. We request Parliament to unite in the chant: Save our electricity!”, Hermann said.
Hermann said although Solidarity is critical of Eskom it is loyal to South Africa. He stated that for that reason Solidarity committed itself to a strategy to improve the electricity supply in South Africa. “Solidarity has a long track record of being critical of Eskom. On many an occasion we have drawn attention to the “cracks” in the Eskom outfit, the most recent instance being the physical cracks in Eskom silos. We are particularly critical of Eskom’s maintenance, its retention of skills and the exodus of staff,” Hermann said.
“Our criticism of Eskom is justified and essential and we will continue our critical stance, but that alone will not suffice to keep the lights on,” Hermann said.
For this reason, Solidarity decided to expand its call to all South Africans appealing to them to become involved in resolving the electricity crisis, each one on his or her own level. It includes:
- At a micro level, every individual consumer can help. We are calling on the public to heed Eskom’s call to save electricity. Individuals can help by managing down electricity consumption at home during peak times by switching off non-essential appliances when Eskom indicates that the system is under pressure. Solidarity will call on its members to comply with the request and will urge other unions to do the same.
- At a business level, Solidarity is calling on companies where the trade union is represented to save electricity in a responsible manner when the network is under pressure. To us, precautionary savings are more important than the collapse of a network, which could result in massive job losses should electricity be rationed.
- At a policy level, Solidarity is asking that the Eskom monopoly over power supply be broken. South Africa’s total dependence on Eskom results in major system risk. South Africa should allow more electricity suppliers, reduce the risk of error and allow more inventiveness as far as the supply of electricity is concerned. The market for electric power generation and distribution must be opened up.
- At an Eskom level, the utility needs to focus just on electricity supply. It should focus on the creation and retention of skills, maintenance and proper project management. Involvement in New Age business breakfasts and other peripheral activities should be suspended to symbolically show a commitment to electricity supply.
- Meanwhile, Solidarity will continue to fulfil its watchdog role. Solidarity also appeals to people who are aware of “cracks” at Eskom, no matter at what level, to disclose it for the sake of electricity supply.