Load shedding took the spotlight during President Cyril Ramphosa’s 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA 2023) on Thursday evening.
Ramaphosa kicked off SONA 2023 by acknowledging the devastating impact that load shedding has had on SA’s businesses, overall economy, and the well-being of the people.
In what was generally received as a disastrous move on social media (based on previous looting the country experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic), President Ramaphosa plans to add a Minister of Electricity to his cabinet. He also announced the immediate implementation of a National State of Disaster to tackle load shedding.
Of course, that was after the annual disruptions that we’ve become accustomed to from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) with a few other minority parties adding spice to the mix.
It turns out, the largest shocker of the night wasn’t when the EFF’s members attempted to jump on the podium after being expelled. The President’s electricity-linked announcements took the spotlight.
“The Minister of Electricity 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,” said Ramaphosa.
Just when the confusion was about to set in on where this would leave the Minister of Public Enterprises, Ramaphosa says the Minister of Electricity “ will remain the shareholder representative of Eskom and steer the restructuring of Eskom”. South Africa also has a Minister of Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy. The three ministries, all partly involved in resolving South Africa’s energy problems, stand to make an interesting recipe during a state of disaster.
“Minister of Electricity” trended on Twitter across South Africa just a few minutes after the announcement.
If THIS is not the Minister of Electricity, then I don’t want him pic.twitter.com/G6yDw4XaLQ
— Thula Sindi (@thulasindi) February 9, 2023
— Nkosazana Nyembe (@ChefZana_) February 9, 2023
Elon Musk – Minister of Electricity 🕯🕯🕯 pic.twitter.com/jU6JwcOyOX
— L E S E D I (@_Hybreed_) February 9, 2023
Minister of electricity 🤣🤣🤣 pic.twitter.com/ei8LrsnSo1
— Pearl Mashaba #ActAsOne (@okaMashaba) February 9, 2023
— OUTA (@OUTASA) February 9, 2023
Not my fault
Before diving too deeply into load shedding, Ramaphosa reminded everyone how the current state of darkness is not necessarily his fault.
“We are in the grip of a profound energy crisis, the seeds of which were planted many years ago,” he says.
Ramaphosa went on to say: “We cannot undo the mistakes that were made in the past, the capacity that was not built, the damage that was done to our power plants due to a lack of maintenance, or the effects of state capture on our institutions.”
Ramaphosa swiftly slipped in a few details about how government (meaning taxpayers) has a “solution” to assist Eskom (again)
“National Treasury is finalising a solution to Eskom’s R400 billion debt burden in a manner that is equitable and fair to all stakeholders, which will enable the utility to make necessary investments in maintenance and transmission,” says Ramaphosa.
He also says government will support Eskom to secure additional funding for its diesel supply during the current financial year.
A state of disaster
South Africa is officially in another National State of Disaster “to respond to the electricity crisis and its effects”. Ramaphosa made the announcement and its immediate implementation during his latest SONA. Government says this is to prevent a total blackout in the country.
“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,” says Ramphosa.
To calm us all down, Ramaphosa says an auditor will be appointed to keep a close eye on the money and any sticky fingers. The move seems to be a sensible one, after the amount of looting done during the COVID-19 pandemic’s National State of Disaster.
What the National State of Disaster means …
Get ready pic.twitter.com/n3Wez9Mr2l
— Nicolette Bailey (@NicoletteBailey) January 31, 2023
iworry yam is that the Eskom National State of Disaster could be used as a strategy to loot state resources to fund the ANC’s election campaign for 2024.
— Christo 🇿🇦🇿🇦🇿🇦 (@ChristoThurston) January 31, 2023
” national state of disaster funds “
Comrades : pic.twitter.com/4fGTyUMBuH
— ᑌＮｄ𝑒𝓇Ⓢ℃𝐎ᖇ𝐞 ｄ (@Mthu__d) January 31, 2023
As South Africa unites in load shedding misery, Ramaphosa concluded SONA 2023 with another attempt to keep the nation going with a common vision during the dark times.
“We will emerge from the crisis with an electricity system that is more efficient, more reliable, more comparative, and an electricity system that serves the people of South Africa.”
THREAD: State of the Nation Address 2023 Highlights #SONA2023 | “We are, at our most essential, a nation defined by hope and resilience.” – President @CyrilRamaphosa #LeaveNoOneBehind https://t.co/REjl0YaXrC pic.twitter.com/Ke6bRgChZK
— South African Government (@GovernmentZA) February 9, 2023
More than coal and solar
It won’t be solar alone or more coal that will get SA out of the dark days. Ramaohosa says the current plan to boost SA’s energy supply includes a mixed bag of energy sources including coalfired power stations, solar, wind, gas, nuclear, hydro, and battery storage.
“All of these measures will result in a massive increase in power to the grid over the next 12 to 18 months and beyond,” says Ramaphosa.