Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Monday, 13 November 2023 11:38

DA challenges Mbalula's misleading claims on load-shedding crisis.

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has accused ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula of distorting reality by blaming load-shedding crisis on the Just Energy Transition (JET) Investment Plan.

Mbalula reiterated a discredited claim that an R164 billion ($8.8 billion) climate finance pact is responsible for the recurrent power outages in the country.

He was speaking at a debate between political party leaders in Johannesburg on Thursday, said the closure of coal-fired plants to win the finance is responsible for the blackouts that have hobbled Africa's most industrialised economy. 

The program has "decapacitated us to the point where we are load shedding today," he said, using a local term for scheduled power cuts.

"Look at where we are now, We have been at the forefront of decommissioning some coal plants."

The comments, which echo those of the country's energy and electricity ministers, may further complicate the troubled pact between South Africa and some of the world's richest nations that is aimed at helping the country shift away from coal.

The DA's Shadow Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Kevin Mileham, says Mbalula's statements are reckless and baseless.

"The attempt to scapegoat the JET agreement, an $8.8 billion investment aimed at facilitating South Africa's transition from coal to cleaner and sustainable energy sources, is not only misleading but a flagrant distortion of reality," says Mileham.

"The load-shedding crisis is the culmination of a 16-year debacle perpetuated by ANC corruption and mismanagement, hollowing out the vital infrastructure of entities like Eskom.

"Mbalula's assertion that the closure of coal-fired plants, a step taken in line with the JET agreement, is solely responsible for the current blackouts conveniently ignores crucial facts.

"It fails to acknowledge that only one unit of the Komati power station, reaching the end of its life cycle, was taken offline, with the other eight units having shut down over several years previously."

Mileham says the power utility's coal fleet is largely dysfunctional, resulting in unplanned outages and ongoing maintenance issues.

"The ANC-led mismanagement, state capture, and a lack of investment in new energy generation have severely crippled Eskom, causing a substantial and consistent energy deficit leading to regular load shedding to sustain grid stability.

"Attempting to discredit renewable energy and lay blame at the door of international financial partners invested in our just energy transition is not just irresponsible but jeopardises crucial relationships vital for South Africa's energy future."

Eskom, the state power utility, has at times instituted outages because of a supply shortfall of as much as 6,000 megawatts.

The Presidential Climate Commission said in a report on Komati's closure that the comments by Gwede Mantashe, the energy minister and ANC chairman, and Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, the electricity minister, that Komati should be reopened had given false hope to local communities. Eskom has said that the plant had reached the end of its operational life and could not stay open.

Komati was also closed with the help of funding from the World Bank, not the JETP.