Zuma blames apartheid

2015-01-11 15:00

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President Jacob Zuma has blamed the country’s increasing power outages on bad planning during apartheid.

More than seven years after his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, apologised to the nation for not listening to Eskom’s pleas to invest more in electricity, President Zuma said: “We don’t feel guilty about the energy issue. It is not our problem of today, but a historic problem, one of apartheid, that we are resolving.”

Deviating from his speech scripted for the ANC’s 103rd birthday celebrations in Cape Town, Zuma explained that, previously and under apartheid, electricity was cheaper and it was considered a means of attracting foreign direct investment.

“Energy was made to serve a few,” he said, because apartheid was aimed at looking after the needs of the white minority.

“After 1994, we had to provide energy to all, because people had the right to energy, and we suddenly realised we don’t have enough,” he said.

Zuma has made these remarks before, but this time he was speaking on behalf of the entire ANC, whose national executive committee met on Wednesday to decide on the content of the speech.

Zuma promised that the new Medupi power station, which is already more than a year behind schedule, would help to alleviate the crisis, and government would look at pulling in independent power producers, as well as striking deals with regional ones, to alleviate the rolling blackouts.

In 2007 Mbeki said: “Eskom was right and government was wrong.” He admitted that government had failed to heed Eskom’s calls to invest more in electricity because of the rapid growth of the economy.

Treasury leaders this week met with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who was tasked last month with sorting out state-owned entities in crisis, including Eskom, the SA Post Office and

SAA. “The deputy president was deeply shocked when we briefed him about the extent of the crisis,” said a Treasury official who met with Ramaphosa this week.

An ANC leader on Friday night at the ANC’s gala fundraising dinner told City Press that chief executive officers of state-owned enterprises were not invited because the ANC did not want these officials to be seen to be party loyalists or donors. But ANC treasurer-general Zweli Mkhize, whose office organised the dinner, did not confirm this.

In his speech, which incorporated clauses of the 60-year-old Freedom Charter, Zuma also tried to appeal to the concerns of middle class black South Africans by saying that the “ANC will make sure that the middle class, particularly the black middle class, continues to grow as part of socioeconomic transformation”.

Zuma became quite animated when he spoke about corruption, saying that it existed before 1994, but the government didn’t do anything about it. He said now that the ANC government was dealing with corruption, there was a perception that it was responsible for corruption.

“It is strange that the very government that is addressing corruption is being attacked. Maybe it is by those who don’t want to be exposed,” Zuma said, referring to critics and commentators.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe yesterday told the SABC that the party was focusing on the Freedom Charter this year in order to “reclaim” it from populists.

The party is planning to have Freedom Charter “forums” across the country to spread ideas about the values contained in the document, but also as a means of kicking off an early campaign for next year’s local government elections.

The ANC in the Western Cape had to scramble to fill the 52?000-seat Cape Town Stadium in sunny and hot weather yesterday.

Many people who attended the celebration were ferried into Cape Town by buses and trains from provinces like the Eastern Cape. A few thousand Cape minstrels, dressed in their traditional colourful uniforms, helped fill the stands, which were about four-fifths full.

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