Eskom crisis: ANC NEC hears calls for state of emergency, moving power utility to energy dept

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Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan
Esa Alexander, Sunday Times, Gallo Images via Gett
  • An ANC NEC meeting heard calls for the declaration of a state of emergency to deal with the power crisis, amid varying suggestions to deal with the matter.
  • Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan presented details on the state of the energy grid and came under fire in the meeting.
  • The NEC meeting decided that government had to do more to deal with the rolling blackouts gripping the country.

The ANC's national executive committee (NEC) heard wide-ranging and spirited calls for intervention in response to the Eskom energy crisis, which ranged from the declaration of a state of emergency to immediately moving Eskom from the Department of Public Enterprises to the Department of Energy.

Sources who attended the NEC meeting, which began on Saturday and ended on Monday, noted that there was an acknowledgement that South Africa's energy shortages and ongoing rolling blackouts were a crisis.

"There were a lot of calls made by ANC leaders on how the government should respond to the crisis, and some people felt that there must be a state of emergency on the energy crisis, especially when you consider what this means for townships and other areas," a well-placed source who attended the meeting told News24.

However, the ANC NEC did not make concrete resolutions on the way forward in the energy crisis gripping South Africa.

"Others believed it was time that the Department of Public Enterprises was finally dismantled, and Eskom be moved to [the Department of] Energy. That is going to be a big debate at our policy conference, I can tell you," the source said.

At the NEC meeting, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan presented a report on the state of the power grid, which was described as "technical with very few solutions".

READ | If power station protests persist, there'll be much more load shedding, Eskom warns

"He made the point that the problems at Eskom [are] very complex, with old power stations dying and the capacity of some power stations being insufficient," a second source in the meeting said.

Gordhan came under attack in the meeting for not coming up with solutions to the problems and his handling of the situation publicly. He is said to have raised the ire of some NEC members for blaming sabotage for the ongoing crisis, which has led to stage 6 load shedding and unplanned blackouts across the country.

"People felt that if sabotage is to blame, then why not call on the security cluster to take action. What does he mean by sabotage? He then said that there has not been much support on the matter," the source said.

Gordhan has insisted that the ongoing power outages were the result of protests at power stations by striking Eskom staff, the intimidation of staff, and damage to Eskom infrastructure.

"The main point was that from the government, we look like we are not doing enough," the second insider said.

QAANITAH HUNTER | Eskom is failing and taking South Africa down with it

Gordhan was further grilled on the state of the Eskom board, which, sources said, was described as "invisible during the crisis".

"Questions were asked about the capacity of the board and the board chairperson, and Gordhan said he was working on the matter but wouldn't give us details."

In May, Gordhan said publicly that the government was reviewing the Eskom board and working on ways to strengthen it. No timelines were given.

At the NEC meeting, President Cyril Ramaphosa was said to have mentioned the need for serious interventions to deal with the matter, and its impact on the economy.

Cabinet was due to hold a special meeting on Tuesday to discuss the energy crisis, but a meeting on Wednesday was tipped to formalise a plan of action which will be presented publicly thereafter.

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