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Right to be paranoid


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Right to be paranoid

Photo of Terence Creamer

10th March 2023

By: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor


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Some of the reactions to the regulations that were belatedly published to give effect to the state of disaster declared to tackle South Africa’s more-than-decade-old electricity crisis could be dismissed as paranoid and alarmist.

However, given the trust deficit that now prevails around public procurement in general, as well as the more specific allegations that criminal coal syndicates have tentacles that reach all the way to Cabinet, such paranoia and alarm is more than justified.


As stated previously in this column, it is far from clear that a state of disaster is really required or legally defensible to address the generation and grid backlogs that have led to daily loadshedding.

The solutions as mapped out by the National Energy Crisis Committee should be urgently implemented, but none are able to close the supply/demand deficit overnight. These actions will take months, more likely years, to implement with or without a state of disaster.


True, Regulation 5(1)(i) which empowers the relevant Cabinet member to issue directions “excluding upgrades, refurbishments, adjustments and repairs of existing energy infrastructure and existing generation, transmission and distribution facilities” from environmental legislation could well be used to facilitate the temporary exemption needed by Kusile to return three units to service a full year earlier than would otherwise be the case.

However, that exemption could well have been secured under existing frameworks. And even if it were challenged legally, both Eskom and the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment would have had a strong case to request that it be dealt with on an urgent basis, given that the absence of the Kusile units is adding two stages of loadshedding currently. A legal challenge may well have also been important for ensuring that the pollution exemption is indeed only a temporary one.

More worrying is Regulation 5(1)(d) which enables “implementing measures to remove impediments to the development or construction of new generation capacity”, particularly when coupled with Regulation 6 that outlines the exemptions allowed under “emergency procurement procedures” and Regulation 5(1)(h), which enables a “streamlining” of environmental decision-making processes.

Taken together, there is potential for either expensive mistakes or, worse yet, calculated misappropriation and corruption.

There is little doubt that South Africa’s tolerance for grand-scale theft is now less than paper thin.

Therefore, should these regulations be perceived to be opening the way for potential corruption, there is every chance that the backlash will move well beyond the relative shelter of the country’s courtrooms and could well spill on to the streets.

The anger is now palpable, particularly given the increasingly clear line of sight between failings at Eskom and political leaders near to the very top of government.

That, too, explains why the current paranoia is justified.


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