Jan 29, 2023

Ramaphosa’s Series Of Meetings Yield No Results From Key Stakeholders

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The power blackouts have forced a number of SMMEs to close down as most of them cannot afford generators during stage 6 load shedding.

FILE PHOTO: President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Presidency Budget Vote Debate on June 10, 2022 in Cape Town, South Africa. The President responded to a debate on his budget vote that he tabled on June 09th. PICTURE: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach

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JOHANNESBURG: Africa’s most industrialised economy is being hit by daily power cuts as anger grows among the opposition parties and the public.

South Africa’s president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa has cancelled his trip to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland as the country grapples with an unprecedented energy crisis that has resulted in daily power cuts of between eight and 11 hours across the country.

Anger is growing as offices, hospitals, factories and tens of thousands of small businesses are forced to close, with outages also causing increased crime, traffic disruption and massive wastage as food supply chains collapse.

The power blackouts have forced a number of SMMEs to close down as most of them cannot afford generators during stage 6 load shedding. Protesters in the east of the commercial capital, Johannesburg, blocked roads with burning tyres on Monday, while a newspaper in the township of Soweto ran the headline “Unplugged” on its front page and listed dozens of local businesses that were struggling.

Mr Ramaphosa and the power utility have issued apologies to South Africans and committed to working around the clock to turn around the crisis.

A spokesperson for the president, Mr Vincent Magwenya, said: “President Ramaphosa deeply regrets the current energy situation, which has placed the country into stage 6 load shedding.

Meanwhile, the group noted Nersa’s decision on Thursday (12 January) and apologised for the severe extent of load shedding the country was currently facing.

FILE PHOTO: Business owners are faced with loss, they also have employees they need to pay salaries to. PICTURE: Daily Vox

“The impact on individuals and businesses is understood. The minimising of load shedding is the highest priority for Eskom, and continuous focus at all levels in the organisation is being given,” it said.

Mr Ramaphosa held several meetings with various stakeholders including opposition parties which appears with little prospect of immediate relief from the crisis. Notably, the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance’s (DA) leader Mr John Steenhuisen did not attend the meeting due to the very same crisis they weren’t meant to discuss.

According to the online publication, TimesLIVE, “I couldn’t attend because of load-shedding, I don’t have Wi-Fi during load-shedding and my other stuff had run down,” Steenhuisen said on Monday.

“I have load-shedding this evening at that time and given the rude and dismissive response I received from the president’s office when I requested a meeting with him it is clear we are not taken seriously,” Steenhuisen is reported to have written in the group.

Another leader of the Christian-based party, Mr Kenneth Meshoe also did not attend Mr Ramaphosa’s multiparty consultation meeting due to load-shedding. However, other leaders declined Mr Ramaphosa’s invitation citing his weakness to take action even if they make recommendations.

The leader of the party that brought the farmgate scandal to the door of law markers, Mr Vuyo Zungula of the African Transformation Movement (ATM), declined to participate in the meeting accusing Mr Ramaphosa of not consulting in good faith.

“He undermines us. He calls us to these meetings, we comment and give suggestions, but when he goes out he communicates whatever he wants and creates an impression that whatever he is communicating has the support of party leaders,” he said.

While Mr Ramaphosa has been given a reprieve against his predecessor, Mr Jacob Zuma in another matter when he was granted the interdict not to appear before the court on Thursday, his government is facing another court challenge from opposition parties and top lawyers in the country.

These groupings include several high-profile lawyers, leaders, and NPOs have threatened Eskom CEO Mr Andre de Ruyter and Public Enterprises Minister Mr Pravin Gordhan with legal action following their failure to provide a stable power supply to the country. 

The letter issued to Mr De Ruyter and Mr Gordhan on Monday was addressed by Mabuza Attorneys and at least six other law firms – Buthelezi Vilakazi Inc, Makangela Mtungani Inc, Mketsu & Associates Inc, Mphahlele & Masipa Inc, Madlanga & Partners Inc and Ntanga Nkuhlu Inc Attorneys.

FILE PHOTO: Eskom CEO André de Ruyter during Eskom press conference at Megawatt Park in Sunninghill. PICTURE: Moneyweb

As a result, Mr Bantu Holomisa decline to be part of Mr Ramaphosa’s meeting because as he said, he would be busy with his lawyers finalising documents to be served on Eskom and the government about the failure to ensure a stable supply of electricity.

Surprisingly, the leftist party leader, Mr Julius Malema of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) attended the meeting despite coming from it disappointed.

The party said Ramaphosa opened the meeting “with an objectionable and utterly false statement” that the government was not solely responsible for the provision of electricity and “we must all take responsibility”. This was not only objectionable but “ludicrous and irresponsible”.

Mr Malema called on Mr Ramaphosa to step down, saying he had repeatedly failed to provide electricity to the people of South Africa.

It appears to be seen whether Mr Ramaphosa’s series of meetings will yield any tangible result as South Africans have started to protest in some parts of the country which could spark a national shutdown.

A caller by the name of Themba on Johannesburg-based talk radio, Power FM confirmed that there will be a peaceful march on Friday to the Union Buildings. Another protest march led by the DA is set to take place at Mr Ramaphosa’s party, the ANC, headquarters – famously known as Luthuli House, Mr Steenhuisen confirmed.

While protest events are gaining momentum, Mr Ramaphosa is juggling from one meeting to another as on Tuesday afternoon, the executives of Eskom cancelled their media briefing citing an urgent meeting with him.

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