DA leader John Steenhuisen writes an open letter to Public Enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan, who accused him of conducting a political points-scoring exercise after he tried to visit Kusile power station.
Dear Minister Pravin Gordhan,
Following your last-minute intervention to block my oversight visit to the Kusile power station on Wednesday, and your subsequent comments in the media afterwards, I would like to set the record straight on a few things.
Obstructing oversight is the oldest trick in the ANC government's book. Your party has always considered Parliament's constitutionally-mandated oversight role as a hindrance and a threat rather than a critical function of democracy.
Wednesday's hastily arranged blockade was not about you suddenly being a stickler for protocol, as you claimed in the media. No one stopped our Public Enterprises Shadow Minister when he performed a similar oversight visit to the same power station earlier this year.
Nor was it about the supposed busy schedule of Eskom senior management that morning, as you also tried to claim. We'd made arrangements and were granted permission for the visit by the CEO himself on Tuesday morning. In addition, my Chief of Staff visited Kusile at midday on Tuesday and was assured by the Stakeholder Manager that our visit was in order. The notion that we just pitched up and were denied is untrue.
Viewed as the enemy
You only hastily intervened to block us because thorough oversight is toxic to the ANC government and particularly to a failed department like yours. You view parliamentarians who do their jobs by shining a light on corruption, mismanagement and bad policy as the enemy. To you, Parliament should be nothing more than a rubber stamp for ANC policy. But I’m afraid that's not going to happen, not as long as the DA has members in the National Assembly.
The second-oldest trick in the ANC book is to shift the blame for its own failures to others, and lately, these “others" are quite often within its own ranks. I see President Cyril Ramaphosa is now repeating a similar line that you used back in September when you claimed that you (presumably meaning one version of the ANC) inherited the Eskom mess from what we're supposed to believe is a different version of ANC. And yesterday President Ramaphosa repeated this bizarre excuse when he blamed "historical issues" for the power utility's woes.
That would be funny if it weren't so serious. There is only one ANC, and you and the president and most of your cabinet colleagues have been part of that ANC government all along. You didn't inherit anything. You are simply reaping the whirlwind of your own party's gross mismanagement, relentless looting and suicidal policies. If you supported cadre deployment at Eskom, this is your mess. If you supported BEE and preferential procurement at Eskom, this is your mess. If you supported measures to block or delay independent power producers, this is your mess. And if you voted, time and time again, to shield the president whose cronies were bleeding Eskom dry, this is your mess.
But surely your most disingenuous comment on Thursday was when you said the DA has no solutions for the energy crisis and only criticism. Even as you were speaking those words, you must have known full well that no one has offered more constructive solutions to South Africa's energy crisis over the past decade than the DA. I challenge you to scroll through the timeline at keepthelightson.co.za, where we keep a log of our inputs and activism on the energy crisis, and then publicly repeat your statement that the DA has offered you no solutions.
Allow me to list some of these proposed solutions, all of which you have either dismissed or simply ignored during your time in office:
- Declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster in the electricity sector in order to suspend all legislation currently blocking solutions to this crisis;
- Issue a blanket Section 34 determination so that all municipalities in good financial standing can procure, generate and store their own electricity;
- Incentivise and ease the regulations on small-scale embedded generation such as rooftop solar;
- Waive all local content requirements for electricity procurement. The only priority now is restoring our supply;
- Waive all preferential procurement requirements. Only the quickest and cheapest solutions will do, and we cannot afford the extra layer of cost that BEE adds;
- Establish an Emergency Electricity Commission or a War Cabinet, headed up by a power utility specialist, to deal with the crisis;
- Update the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). In its current (2019) guise, it is based on entirely incorrect assumptions on additional energy sources and available Eskom capacity;
- Establish an Independent System Market Operator so that the transmission grid can be run separately from Eskom;
- Aggressively pursue new generation capacity from diverse sources and technologies;
- Establish proper governance structures to oversee the foreign funding for our transition away from fossil fuels;Invest in grid infrastructure and system upgrades – this is as important as new generation;
- Build more storage capacity. Investing in the technology of batteries and other forms of storage (such as pumped storage) will take a lot of pressure off Eskom;
- Deal with sabotage through integrated security and intelligence measures and by vigorously prosecuting the treasonous saboteurs;
- Employ engineers qualified in electricity generation and cut the dead wood at Eskom;
- Ramp up maintenance on Eskom's generation fleet. Fixing just half of the utility's broken generation capacity will end load-shedding; and
- Review all Eskom coal contracts to eradicate corruption and ensure best-price contracts.
You will find a record of all of these proposed solutions and many more at the link I shared above. There you will also find reference to our Independent Electricity Management Operator (IEMO) Bill (also known as the Cheaper Electricity Bill), which we asked you to support in Parliament. If you were genuinely interested in saving South Africa from this electricity crisis, you had many opportunities to reach across the aisle and accept our help. This was offered in good faith and with good intentions.
The DA constantly engages your government with plans and solutions, not as a "party political football" as you cynically claim, but because that is our job as opposition. And on Wednesday, I drove out to Kusile to do my job as a member of Parliament - a job which all 400 of us who sit in those benches share. But even if only some of us are prepared to do this, it must and will still happen.
If we are to beat this crisis, I would urge you to focus on doing your job, rather than trying to prevent me from doing mine.
John Steenhuisen, leader of the Democratic Alliance.
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