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State of Disaster declaration possibly a disaster within itself, as parties call on courts


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State of Disaster declaration possibly a disaster within itself, as parties call on courts

President Cyril Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa

10th February 2023

By: Marleny Arnoldi
Deputy Editor Online


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President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SoNA) on February 9 has evoked mixed responses from trade unions, industry associations, academia and businesses, with some taking to the courts against the State of Disaster declaration in respect of the country’s electricity crisis.

Political party the Democratic Alliance (DA) and trade union Solidarity have announced that they will challenge the declaration in court, describing the declaration as irrational, unnecessary and possibly unconstitutional.


“We dare not allow a repeat of government’s abuse of power that occurred during the Covid-19 State of Disaster. Everything the President announced in the SoNA can already be implemented using existing legislation, but no amount of legislation will be able to rectify incompetence.

“A State of Disaster will not end the energy crisis any faster, but it opens the door to major abuse once again,” says Solidarity CEO Dr Dirk Hermann.


He, like many other private sector executives, believe the private sector should be allowed and enabled to alleviate the energy crisis without excessive government regulation.

In turn, the DA is seeking to have the State of Disaster declaration tested for its constitutionality, also owing to fears about possible abuse of power and corruption. This sentiment is echoed by the African Christian Democratic Party and Freedom Front Plus parties.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) also agrees, stating that a State of Disaster declaration is not the mechanism to provide South Africa with energy security. Outa believes the decision is intended to give an impression that action is being taken, when the reality is that government’s plan is weak.

The organisation is considering legal action against government, particularly as the declaration “will not make previously inept officials and Ministers suddenly competent and willing to do their jobs”.

National Employers Association of South Africa points out that the same team who systematically, over many years, caused the disaster, will be the team in charge of the recovery.

“The same ideology, the same hostility towards real private enterprise, the same craving for self-enrichment, will still be prevalent in the team. Unless that changes, recovery will remain a struggle. After years of disappointment, we will be naive to give them, once again, the benefit of the doubt,” the association states.

Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) seconds Solidarity’s view that many of the solutions to the energy crisis can be implemented effectively without a State of Disaster and that government should limit the use of extra power it has granted itself purely to address the loadshedding crisis.

BLSA is concerned about the State of Disaster having overreach and undermining citizens’ rights, as was the case during the Covid-19 State of Disaster, as well as potential massive corruption linked to tenders.

Trade unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union and Uasa say the State of Disaster will provide fresh opportunities for officials to loot State resources through relaxed regulations as experienced during the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it is merely another ploy to exercise undue control over citizens’ lives.

The Agricultural Business Chamber is one of few entities to have welcomed the declaration of a State of Disaster, saying it represents a clear statement to move forward with greater speed in addressing the energy crisis.

However, the organisation warns that this needs to be done in a focused manner, without unnecessary disruption to business or society at large.

“The declaration, with immediate effect, will allow government to access more comprehensive financial resources in a short timeframe to help cushion a national emergency,” adds the Motor Industry Staff Association.

North-West University Business School economist Professor Raymond Parsons was also among those who responded positively to the declaration, noting that it may well speed up decision-making at several levels to deal with the energy crisis.

He admits, however, that there are downsides to the decision in that safeguards will be necessary to prevent corruption, as well as that the State of Disaster should only be a temporary solution towards an exit strategy.


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