June 25, 2024

South Africa revokes ‘state of disaster’ over power crisis


South Africa’s government has revoked a national “state of disaster” declared in February to manage a crippling electricity crisis.

On February 9, President Cyril Ramaphosa invoked disaster regulations to fight the crisis that included daily rolling power cuts by state utility Eskom due to frequent breakdowns at its ageing coal-fired power stations and years of corruption.

The state of disaster gave the government additional powers to respond to the crisis, including by permitting emergency procurement procedures with fewer bureaucratic delays and less oversight.

The government will now work through its Energy Crisis Committee to reduce the effect of power cuts using existing legislation and contingency arrangements, Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister Thembi Nkadimeng said in a statement on Wednesday.

As part of efforts to mitigate the effect of the crisis, newly appointed Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa visited the troubled utility’s power stations in recent weeks. He had consultations within the government and with Eskom aimed at resolving the electricity shortages, CoGTA said.

The government said it decided to terminate the disaster regulations in view of those developments.

State of disaster legislation was first used to enable health authorities to respond more swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some analysts doubted it would help boost the power supply.

It was also challenged in court by OUTA, a nonprofit that focuses on fighting government corruption and tax abuses.

“The state is withdrawing the national state of disaster in response to OUTA’s legal action challenging its rationality,” the organisation said in response to the withdrawal.

OUTA said the disaster regulations would have enabled corruption and that the crisis could be managed using existing laws.

Eskom has implemented scheduled electricity outages since the beginning of the year, with most households and businesses without power for up to 10 hours a day.

The cuts, known locally as “load shedding”, have taken a toll on households and small businesses in Africa’s most industrialised nation.

The utility said it would not comment on the state of disaster withdrawal until it engaged with the government.

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