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Govt accepts loadshedding Constitution breach but seeks January deadline legal advice


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Govt accepts loadshedding Constitution breach but seeks January deadline legal advice

Image of Kgosientsho Ramokgopa
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

11th December 2023

By: News24Wire


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While the government has accepted a High Court finding that loadshedding undermines South Africans' rights, it has sought legal advice on a court-imposed deadline to provide power to public schools and hospitals as well as police stations by the end of January, according to Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa

Earlier in December, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria found the government's numerous avoidable failures caused loadshedding, which is infringing on South Africans' basic rights in breach of the Constitution.


It also found Ramokgopa had to ensure by the end of January next year "there shall be sufficient supply or generation of electricity to prevent any interruption of supply as a result of load shedding" to all public health facilities, all public schools, the police, and police stations.

He said at a briefing on Sunday the government accepted load shedding had an "adverse impact" on its ability to deliver on its constitutional obligations.


"We have not shied away [from saying] that load shedding … essentially undermines people's constitutional rights. That we do accept," Ramokgopa added. 

However, the "issues" are around what the 31 January deadline means.  

"Do we mean that by the 31st of January, you come with a comprehensive plan that is convincing to the judge and the other parties that, indeed, we are on track to ensure that we are able to provide this uninterrupted supply to these schools, to these establishments? 

"Or, it means that by that time, you must ensure that, come the first of February, these installations are not load shedded?

"There are legal intricacies there. We will receive legal advice on what is the best approach," he said.

The ruling is part of a case that consolidated three load shedding applications brought by numerous groups, including the Democratic Alliance (DA), United Democratic Movement (UDM), Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), Action SA, and National Union of Metalworkers, among others. 

Ramokgopa said he believed the parties went before the court out of "genuine desperation and care for the life and limb of the future of young people".

"They really wanted the court to come to the mix and say that the state has got that obligation, and it must be compelled.

"Of course, in the long term, our ability to avoid this kind of conversation and this degree of litigation is to ultimately resolve load shedding."

Eskom's apex office

At Sunday's briefing, Ramokgopa also took a moment to welcome the appointment of Dan Marokane as Eskom CEO, saying he would "hit the ground running" when he started the job.

He added Eskom's chief financial officer, Calib Cassim, was "exceptionally helpful" during his time as acting CEO. 

"For the purposes of the work that we are doing, I think we welcome the fact that at the apex office of Eskom, we now have an appointment for the next five years. [This] augurs well for the work we are doing," Ramokgopa said. 

"Certainty is key in the resolution of a crisis of this magnitude. When you have a situation where you have people in an acting capacity, sometimes they are very averse to make thoroughgoing decisions, but we do welcome this appointment." 

When asked if Cassim would be staying on at Eskom, Ramokgopa said the board of the utility, or Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan would be more suited to answer.

Koeberg and diesel

Ramokgopa also announced Koeberg unit 2 would be taken offline on Monday to extend the nuclear power plant's life for another 20 years.

This effectively takes 980MW away from the grid, equivalent to one load shedding stage. 

Unit 1 was taken offline in December last year and was meant to return by June this year. However, it only returned to service a month ago and is now "almost at full load". 

"Now we are taking out unit 2 for the same purpose, and I was saying to the team that they've learnt from the mistakes and the shortcomings in relation to unit 1.

"So, we urged them that they must keep to the timelines of returning unit 2."

Ramokgopa said while there have been some improvements on the grid, especially around the rate at which generating units at stations were failing, this was offset by a ramp-up in planned maintenance over the summer period.

At the same time, Eskom is using less of its diesel-fed Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs), except during peak periods. 

"It is important that we are a bit more judicious in how you burn the diesel.

"You don't want to get to a situation where you are running out of funds… I did indicate that there is about R30 billion or so in relation to the diesel budget," he said.

"So, it is important that you keep within that budget. So essentially, what we have been witnessing is the true health of the system without necessarily the assistance of the OCGTs."


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