The following remarks were delivered by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen MP, at the DA’s Power To The People march to Luthuli House in Johannesburg today.
Democrats, fellow South Africans,
I am so pleased to see so many of you out here this morning. You look magnificent.
While our country is going through an incredibly tough time, it is inspiring to see that you still have the spirit for this fight. You haven’t given up yet.
If we can keep that spirit alive, I promise you we will overcome not only this electricity challenge, but every other challenge facing South Africa today.
Together we will beat crime, together we will beat unemployment, and together we will beat poor service delivery.
But today’s challenge is the energy crisis, which threatens to derail not only our fragile economy, but our entire project South Africa. Because if we don’t solve this problem soon and end load-shedding for good, our society will start falling apart.
Already we are close to breaking point, and communities across the country have run out of patience. We have to restore power to the people before the situation explodes into chaos.
And that is what today’s march is about. It is about taking back the power from a small elite that has insulated itself from poverty, from crime and from load-shedding, and then placing that power in the hands of the people of South Africa.
That’s where the power belongs in a democracy – in the hands of the people.
So why are we here today, in Library Gardens, across the way from the ANC’s headquarters, Luthuli House?
Why are we not at the Union Buildings, as some have asked?
Why did we not march to Parliament, or to Eskom’s head office, Megawatt Park?
Why did we choose to bring the fight against load-shedding and the destruction of Eskom here to the ANC?
The answer is simple: If you are serious about tackling the problem, you need to go straight to the source. And that building there, Luthuli House, is ground zero of our electricity crisis.
That is where the destruction of Eskom was engineered through terrible, outdated policy, through disgusting greed and corruption and, above all, through the deployment of useless and often criminal cadres to the state power utility.
Almost every single problem that has beset Eskom and has brought about fifteen years of load-shedding can be traced back directly to the ANC’s cadre deployment programme.
By their own shameless admission, the intention of cadre deployment is to control every single aspect of the state from inside those party headquarters across the street. They deliberately set out to hijack for the ANC the power that belongs in our state institutions.
That is a blatant violation of the very first principle of our democracy: the separation of party and state. And they’ve never even tried to hide this.
What you see happening to Eskom now – the looting, the purge of skilled staff, the neglect of infrastructure and the complete lack of a long-term plan – is the only way cadre deployment could ever unfold. And the DA has been warning about this for decades.
Every decision to delay the building of new power stations or to delay the procurement of electricity from other sources, every decision to put off station maintenance until things started falling apart, every corrupt contract issued to a connected crony, was either made inside that building, or by an ANC cadre deployed by a committee that sat inside that building.
That is why we are here at Luthuli House today, and not at Megawatt Park or the Union Buildings, or Parliament.
Our country’s electricity supply wasn’t destroyed by Eskom Cadre Deployment, or by Government Cadre Deployment. It was destroyed by ANC Cadre Deployment.
And while that destruction was taking place, some people got very rich.
Most of you will know about the looting that took place – and still continues to take place – around the construction of South Africa’s two largest coal power stations, Medupi and Kusile. But it is worth repeating, now that we are standing at the very scene of the crime.
When those power stations were being planned, the ANC’s front company, Chancellor House, bought a stake in Hitachi Power Africa, and then quickly made sure Hitachi would get the mega-contract worth billions of rands to supply the boilers to those two stations.
It was reported all the way back in 2015 that this deal gave Chancellor House – or let’s just call them what they are: the ANC – a staggering 5000% return on their investment.
That’s a massive profit on the back of crooked contracts. And that wasn’t a government profit, or an Eskom profit. That was purely an ANC profit.
Today, fifteen years after those corrupt boiler contracts were awarded, these stations are still not fully operational. As we speak, Kusile is facing critical structural threats and has five of its six units out of commission.
Those two enormous coal stations were meant to solve all our energy problems, and nothing else was added to the grid in the meantime. But thanks to the greed, the incompetence and the ancient Cold War-era world view of the cadres in that building, Eskom now produces less power than it did before they started building them.
That’s why load-shedding has steadily increased every year for the past five years, instead of getting less.
That’s why we had 200 days of power cuts last year.
That’s why you now have to deal with Stage 6 load-shedding, week after week, and have been told to expect permanent power cuts for at least the next two years.
And that’s why you are expected to pay 19% more from April for the little electricity you receive, plus another 12% next year. You have to pay more to make up for their corruption, incompetence and failed policies.
That is the price of cadre deployment. That is the price South Africa has to pay for the party in that building.
But I’ll tell you who doesn’t have to deal with Stage 6 – or any stage for that matter – and who won’t have to worry about any tariff increases. President Ramaphosa and his cabinet of pampered ANC ministers, that’s who.
You see, while they’ve made you pay for their failures, they have exempted themselves from all these consequences.
ANC ministers don’t get load-shed at all at their official residences. And why not, you may wonder? Apparently because they are so important that they need to have power 24/7.
We are told that their need for uninterrupted electricity is in fact more important than that of hospitals, old age homes, businesses, schools or any of the things that keep our economy afloat and our people alive.
In addition, these pampered ministers all have generators purchased for them by Minister De Lille’s department and paid for by you, and she has given them hundreds of thousands of rands worth of free diesel to run their free generators.
And when Nersa says you must pay 19% more and then another 12% more, on top of 650% increase you’ve already paid these past 15 years, they don’t care. Because they don’t even pay for their electricity. You do, for all of it.
So why would these ministers feel any urgency to fix a situation that doesn’t affect them at all?
And why would the people inside that building stop doing what they’ve been doing all these years when it’s been so rewarding for them?
Why would they stop deploying crooks to Eskom who let the party get rich off Medupi and Kusile?
Why would they stop deploying the crooks who let the Guptas plunder Eskom for years?
And why would they stop deploying the crooks who still want to tie South Africa to the Russians for decades in a nuclear deal?
They won’t change a thing, because enrichment is the only reason they’re in government.
So that change is going to have to be forced by you.
It is a simple binary choice: Either the ANC, or a prosperous South Africa with electricity. You can’t have both.
Luckily we’re just over a year out from the most important election any of you will ever vote in, and that is where you will get to make this choice.
If we want to end load-shedding, we have to start ANC-shedding. And that will only happen if you remember on voting day exactly what they did to you.
Don’t be fooled if they run the diesel turbines for weeks around elections to temporarily halt load-shedding. Don’t be fooled if Stage 6 suddenly becomes Stage 2.
Remember them at their worst, because that is what it will undoubtedly return to if they are given another chance.
Today we say: No more. They’ve been given their last chance. They are finished.
Next year they can all clear out their offices at the Union Buildings. Next year we will be done with the ANC, and we will start building the South Africa we all want to see.
2024 is the year you take the power back.