The DA’s response to the energy crisis

The energy crisis is now the single biggest threat to SA’s wellbeing, doing profound economic and social harm. It is now costing South Africa four to six billion rand a day, pushing more and more people into poverty, unemployment and crime, and driving away investment.

We’ve had a full year of load shedding altogether since 2015. Last year, the 157 days (3776 hours) of load shedding cost South Africa R560 billion rand in lost productivity. Meantime, ANC cabinet ministers and deputy ministers lack a sense of urgency, because their official residences are exempt from load-shedding and instead get free electricity and free generators, paid for by all of us, the taxpayers.

And worse is yet to come. Indefinite stage 6 could soon give way to indefinite stage 8 or even a total power failure. This is the biggest crisis South Africa has faced in the history of our democracy. The DA has launched a political and legal fightback and is going all out to shield residents where we govern.

Political fightback

The DA has declared Wednesday 25 January a National Day of Action against ANC load shedding and unaffordable, unfair electricity price increases. The primary venue for this “Power to the People” mass protest will be Luthuli House, the ANC’s headquarters in Johannesburg. We are also using our network of branches and structures across South Africa to provide a platform for people to protest in other cities and towns across the country. Please join us or voice your protest in any way you can on that day. See here for details.

The ANC needs to understand in no uncertain terms how angry we all are that they are destroying South Africa’s energy infrastructure and economy. In giving people a platform to express their anger, we hope to bring the ANC’s incentives in line with South Africa’s by making it clear to them that it is in their best political interest to urgently implement the obvious solutions to this growing crisis. They need to understand the enormous political risk they face if they fail to act fast.

DA solutions

The DA, along with industry experts, has been proposing these solutions for years. They are the steps we would take were we in national government:

• Employ experienced engineers and managers to run the various entities of Eskom and stop all political interference in the energy sector.
• Unbundle Eskom into separate transmission, distribution and generation entities and allow transmission to be operated by an independent grid operator while privatizing as many other entities as possible. The DA has written a Private Members Bill to enable this unbundling.
• Fully open the energy market to independent power producers and incentivise businesses and households to install solar rooftop panels.
• Declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster around the energy market to exempt it from all obstacles to efficient spending and rapid decision-making such as localization and BEE legislation.
• Ramp up security at all key Eskom sites and deal decisively and harshly with saboteurs.

These steps are all aligned with the DA’s four core principles for organizing society: a commitment to the rule of law, a social market economy (economic decision-making power is decentralised to the people), a capable state (which requires the separation of party and state), and nonracialism (redress through opening economic opportunity and tackling inequality of access rather than through race-based legislation which harms service delivery and deters investment).

Why Luthuli House?

The ANC would have people believe that it is Eskom that has let them down and that it is to Megawatt Park, Eskom’s headquarters, that we should march. It is very important that voters see through this ruse.

By choosing Luthuli House, the DA is taking this fight to the scene of the crime. Through its corrupt policy of cadre deployment, which Chief Justice Zondo declared “unconstitutional and illegal”, the ANC has over the past three decades usurped decision making powers that should rightfully be dispersed in various entities of the State, unlawfully centralising these powers in the ANC. In doing so, they broke one of the golden rules of democracy – the separation of party and state.

Because of the cadre deployment committee records that the DA exposed to the country last year, we know it is at Luthuli House where, over the past 25 years, the decisions were made to “deploy” the corrupt and incompetent ANC cadres who plundered and destroyed Eskom.

It is at Luthuli House that corrupt tenders were handed out, including for the construction of the Medupi and Kusile power stations that have cost our country hundreds of billions of rands, yet still can’t provide the power our economy needs to function.

Decisions have consequences. Indefinite stage 6 with a prospect of stage 8 and total power failure is the inevitable consequence of the ANC’s decision back in 1997 to adopt this policy of cadre deployment. The DA has spent the last quarter decade warning against it and opposing it. In fact, our case to have it declared illegal goes to court on Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 January.

Legal fightback

We have also instructed our lawyers to apply to the High Court to interdict the implementation of electricity price increases which, at 18.65% this April and 12.74% next April, amount to a 33.77% hike over the next 16 months. This is unaffordable and unfair. South Africans should not be forced to pay for the ANC’s looting and mismanagement of Eskom through these extortionate tariff increases. Electricity prices have already increased by more than 650% since this crisis started in 2007, which is quadruple the inflation rate over the same period.

We are seeking the following relief:

To have NERSA’s decision of 12 January 2023 declared inconsistent with the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, to have it declared invalid, and to have it set aside.
• To have the ongoing and repeated decisions to implement load shedding declared inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore invalid, and to have these decisions set aside.
• To have government’s response to the ongoing energy crisis declared inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.
• To have government’s response to the crisis declared as having failed to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights, thereby limiting the right to human dignity, the right to life, the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being, the right of access to healthcare services, the right to access sufficient water, the right to basic education, and the right to access courts..

As part of this application, we will also ask that the court direct government to file, within 30 days, a comprehensive plan, including short-term, medium-term and long-term steps, to avert the energy crisis. If political pressure fails to get the ANC to act in the interests of the citizens of this country, they must be compelled to do so by a court of law.

Where we govern

Where the DA governs, we are taking several steps to shield citizens from this crisis

• DA-run Cape Town consistently shields the City’s residents and businesses from 1 and sometimes 2 stages of load-shedding through its Steenbras hydroelectric pumped storage system. Till now, this has protected the City from over 60% of Eskom’s load-shedding. The system requires excellent ongoing maintenance and management, as it is under constant pressure.
• Cape Town has a fully budgeted programme to shield residents entirely from up to stage 4 load-shedding. (Beyond stage 4 it gets exponentially more difficult to protect citizens.) The City has implemented a first round of the bidding process for independent power producers, for a total capacity of 300MW, mostly solar power, to come online from 2026. A second round of 500MW will go to market in 2 weeks’ time and this power is also expected to come online from 2026.
• To complement this programme, the City has implemented a programme of buying surplus solar-generated electricity from commercial entities. This is to encourage businesses, and eventually households too, to install rooftop solar panels.
• Cape Town is the only City to have implemented a wheeling power pilot, in which a number of private entities sell power they have generated to third parties using the city’s distribution system, for a small fee.
• Currently, around 90% of Western Cape municipalities allow small-scale renewable energy to feed in to the grid. 20 municipalities compensate households or businesses that feed excess energy back into the network.
• The City of Johannesburg has allocated 30% of its 70-billion budget towards boosting City Power.
• The City of Ekurhuleni has approved 47 independent power producers that will connect directly to the City ‘s electricity grid to offset the impact of load-shedding.

Conclusion

If South Africans want affordable, reliable power, they would do best to take away the ANC’s power to govern and lend it to the DA. South Africans must use the immense power of their vote in the general election of 2024, to restore their power supply and save their economy. The only load shedding we can afford is for our country to shed the load of the ANC in 2024.

STRAIGHT TALK: uMngeni chose progress and South Africa can too

uMngeni chose progress and South Africa can too

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

The story of uMngeni shows that we can fix South Africa and get it working for everyone – and get everyone working. Road by road, streetlight by streetlight, DA Mayor Chris Pappas and Deputy Mayor Sandile Mnikathi along with their team and many helpful residents are fixing uMngeni. This beautiful KwaZulu Natal Midlands municipality, home to towns such as Howick, Mpophomeni and Hilton, is the first ever to be run by the DA in the province. After just one year since taking over from the ANC, the difference between uMngeni and other KZN municipalities is already striking. Here is a taste of the real, tangible progress that has been achieved for residents so far. Prioritising the poor and youth

Since the DA took over last year, the number of households receiving free basic services has gone up from 133 to 3 005, a 22-fold increase. The budget allocated to develop young people has been increased by 50% to R1.5 million. And a lot of effort and resources have been targeted at fixing roads and other infrastructure in poor, rural areas such as Shifu, Emashingeni and Hhaza. Cleaning up

To improve waste collection and reduce impact on the environment, they’ve procured a new refuse collection truck and TLB (tractor loader backhoe), with more such vehicles planned once finances allow. To address littering and illegal dumping, they’ve employed 60 people for a 6-month period. They’ve also supplied their NPO partners with 25 temporary workers for cleanup and gardening purposes. Fixing infrastructure

This is a massive challenge due to decades of neglect. The first priority has been to fix high-use roads, so they almost doubled the road maintenance budget, from R11 million to R21 million. A lot of pothole-fixing and stormwater clearing has been undertaken and R4 million has been budgeted to retrofit LED streetlights. Fixing the finances

R25,5 million of debt has been recovered so far and after only 11 months, the municipality paid back R10.4 million of loans leaving uMngeni debt-free and saving rate payers R450 000 in interest each year. Bringing law and order

Recognising that law and order is the essential foundation for a functional municipality, they are building a vehicle pound that will double up as the official offices and base for uMngeni Traffic, beefing up their CCTV and LNPR camera systems, and training more traffic officers. They’ve also expanded their contracted security services and undertaken an extensive repair of street lights, to deter crime. Creating work and jobs

To grow tourism jobs, they have begun the process of redeveloping the Howick Falls as a major attraction. Since November 2021, the administration has also created 230 employment opportunities and added 16 new permanent staff members. The budget to assist small-scale farmers has been doubled from R300 000 to R600 000, while the budget to assist SMMEs has been more than doubled, from R130 000 to R300 000. A clean, orderly, working municipality leads to job creation, because people feel confident about the future, and so they invest. When you fix a pothole, you don’t just restore the road, you restore people’s faith in the future. This is the most important way for any municipality to drive job creation. Being open and fair

Their goal is to be transparent, so all council meetings are open to the public and as much information as possible is published on the municipal website so that the public can scrutinise everything. Employment opportunities are provided in a transparent and fair manner, and no longer to the politically connected. Temporary employment opportunities are allocated using a randomised selection process. Conclusion

This is just the beginning and there is an enormous amount of fixing and building still to be done. But it’s happening, one bite at a time. In four years’ time at the end of their first term in office, uMngeni will be an island of order and progress in a sea of chaos and decline. It will be a beacon of hope and a shining example of what’s possible elsewhere. uMngeni chose the DA difference. In the next general election, the whole of South Africa can too.

Lessons from Gauteng metro upheaval

ANC one-party dominance is drawing to a close. We cannot afford to replace it with unstable coalitions. The recent upheaval in the Gauteng metros provides crucial lessons for South Africa ahead of the 2024 national election. We ignore them at our peril.

Johannesburg

On 25 October, the DA’s Mpho Phalatse was reinstated as mayor, replacing ANC mayor Dada Morero who was in office for just 25 days. This, after the DA won its High Court case to have the ANC coalition’s motion of no confidence which forced her out on 29 September ruled unconstitutional and invalid.

The judgement is something of a victory for Johannesburg residents and the rule of law, setting a legal precedent that should deter councillors from pursuing illegal processes and frivolous reasoning to topple opponents.

But the fact remains that the political situation in Johannesburg is inherently unstable due to an enormously fragmented council where 18 parties are represented, with no party having an absolute majority, and with 8 of them having just 1 seat in the 270-member council. Phalatse’s new coalition remains at risk of being ousted.

Ekurhuleni

On 8 November, DA mayor Tania Campbell was reinstated as mayor of Ekurhuleni having been ousted two weeks before in a motion of no confidence. Her 10-party minority coalition had spent 10 months working to undo the damage done by the ANC over the past two decades and achieving meaningful progress for residents. She has now formed a new minority coalition which remains at risk of being ousted.

Citizens suffer

The citizens of these two metros are the real victims of this political upheaval. Political instability inevitably disrupts and compromises service delivery, with the poorest citizens suffering most. Being unable to afford private provision, they are most reliant on government services.

If the dynamics within metro coalitions are replicated at national and provincial government level post 2024, it will lead to permanent instability, with South Africa possibly even becoming ungovernable.

The problem with PR

Proportional Representation electoral systems tend to encourage a fragmentation of politics into a large number of parties. In South Africa this is particularly extreme because a party can get a seat in Parliament with just 0,2% of the vote.

Yet even a party this tiny, with minimal electoral support, can bring down a government if that party’s seat is needed to make up 50%-plus-1 in the coalition. In Johannesburg, for example, COPE got fewer than 2500 votes out of more than a million voters. Yet their one councillor, Colleen Makhubele, brought down the DA-led multi-party coalition.

When no party wins an absolute majority, tiny parties can become “king makers”, wielding power that is far out of proportion to their electoral support. This makes them vulnerable to being bribed by larger parties that need their support to get into government, posing huge risk to the stability of coalition governments.

Electoral threshold

Other countries with PR electoral systems, such as Germany, Denmark, Austria, Belgium and Greece, have avoided instability by setting electoral thresholds. In Germany, parties require a minimum of 5% of the electorate’s support to get into national government while in Denmark it is 2%, Austria 4%, Belgium 5%, and Greece 3%.

To stabilise coalitions in South Africa, the DA has proposed an electoral threshold of 1 or 2%, among other legislative changes, which we will seek to introduce through Private Members Bills.

Promotes democracy

While preventing a tiny party from getting a seat in a legislature may be seen as somewhat undemocratic, allowing tiny parties to decide whether the ANC or the DA runs a government is a gross subversion of democracy. In pursuit of a generally democratic outcome and stable coalitions, we need to be willing to sacrifice a small degree of proportionality.

Avoids complexity

By preventing a proliferation of tiny parties, an electoral threshold also prevents cumbersome coalitions consisting of large numbers of parties, such as Tshwane’s 7-party coalition and Nelson Mandela Bay’s 10-party coalition. Decision-making is naturally slower and large coalitions battle to act with common purpose. Inevitably, delivery is compromised.

The DA-led multi-party coalitions in both Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni have managed to achieve meaningful successes while in government, despite the challenges of managing complex minority coalitions. But had the DA held outright majorities or been able to form majority coalitions with just one orSecurity of tenure and greater flexibility due to simpler decision-making processes make for better governing outcomes. This becomes very clear when you look at Cape town, Midvaal or uMngeni, where the DA governs outright, or Hessequa and Breede Valley municipalities, which are run by stable DA-led majority coalitions.

Two-horse race

If voters are serious about replacing the ANC with a functional government that can move South Africa forward, then 2024 needs to be a two-horse race between the ANC and the DA. A recent poll by the Social Research Foundation put the DA at only eleven percentage points behind the ANC nationally. In the next eighteen months we will close that gap still further.

Declare Eskom State of Disaster now, President Ramaphosa

The following address was delivered yesterday by DA Leader John Steenhuisen, on the DA’s latest proposals to address the electricity crisis as South Africans face the threat of complete grid collapse.

Good morning, my fellow citizens,

If you’ve tuned into this broadcast, you’re most likely one of the fortunate South Africans who still has power to their computer or their wi-fi router right now. Millions don’t, and as the day progresses, many millions more will face the same lot.

And they will go through all of this tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, with literally no end in sight.

During these periods, factories shut down their machines, businesses close their doors, hospitals postpone theatre lists, matric students aren’t able to study for their exams.

But even more importantly, future plans are reconsidered. Business expansion plans are put on hold, investments withdrawn, tours are cancelled, posts are frozen, staff are retrenched.

And when the loadshedding seems indefinite, these things become permanent. That’s how a country slips backwards until it fails.

If you read the Eskom press statements, you will know that the available capacity of our country’s power stations has reached a critical stage, with multiple generation units at multiple power stations out of commission at the same time.

Many of these units have been offline for several months, and will be offline for many more, while day-to-day failures at power stations remove even more megawatts from the grid.

And while this shortfall could, until now, be somewhat mitigated through the expensive practice of burning diesel in open-cycle gas turbines, that option is no longer on the cards because Eskom has simply run out of money to buy diesel.

Eskom’s financial year runs to end-March 2023, but their diesel budget for the year has already been spent.

That’s why we’re in and out of stage 4 and stage 5 loadshedding right now.

That’s why no one can predict which stage we’ll be at next week, or tomorrow or even a couple of hours from now.

That is why more and more people are starting to use language like “total shutdown” and “grid collapse” when speaking of our energy crisis.

Those people are not being alarmist. Our country is standing before its greatest ever threat – an event that will dwarf the devastating economic effects of government’s Covid lockdowns.

This is no longer about inconvenience at home or in the workplace. This is about the future of South Africa.

Simply put, our country will not survive the collapse of the electricity grid, should it come to that. And that is where we are headed.

That’s why the response to the energy crisis must be treated as a matter of National Security, and handled with the urgency, the scale and the focus of a war-like situation.

But why does it not feel like we’re in a crisis of National Security?

Where are the leaders responsible for plotting our defense? Where are the weekly updates? What are the details of the plan? What are the budgets? What are they doing, and what can we do?

Why do we have to rely on sporadic press releases from the power utility and then piece together the extent of the crisis ourselves?

Where is Minister Pravin Gordhan in the biggest crisis of his political career?

And more importantly, where is our president?

Well, I’ll tell you exactly where he is. He’s trotting down the Mall of London in a horse-drawn carriage, on his way to have tea with the King.

His country is finally collapsing under the weight of three decades of ANC neglect and looting, and he’s out there trying to shine its tarnished image for the press and investors, and pose for photos at Buckingham Palace.

But surely the president knows that if you want to attract new investment and retain current investment, then a reliable supply of electricity is an absolute basic requirement.

This is not the time for flags and parades, for tea and scones and selfies with the Royals. This is the time to bring all hands on deck and stage a fight-back. This is the time to be present, realistic and transparent.

This is the time to be a president.

At the height of the Covid lockdowns, he was on the TV all the time. Where are those updates now?

And where is Deputy Minister DD Mabuza, the man tasked by the president with fixing Eskom?

He’s off on another one of his mysterious junkets in Russia, leaving Angie Motshekga in charge here at home.

So while the country is facing its worst energy crisis along with a public sector wage strike, our president is off swanning with the Royals, we have an acting president abroad and another acting president at home, and no one is doing anything.

It’s time to stop acting and to start leading.

While the media, analysts and energy experts all seem to grasp just how dire the situation has become, our government appears to be sleepwalking straight into this catastrophe.

Could it be that their weak response stems from the fact that they know this crisis is entirely their own doing?

Escalating it now to a crisis of National Security would be an admission that their entire business model around energy, since stepping into government, has been a failure.

An admission that they should have invested in building more capacity far sooner.

An admission that they should have invested far more in the maintenance and repairs of their ageing power fleet.

An admission that they should have retained the critical skills of experienced engineers instead of sacrificing them on the altar of racial transformation.

An admission that they should have opened the energy market to private players a long time ago and on a far bigger scale, instead of clinging to their Cold-War era fantasy of state control and state monopoly.

An admission that their party policy of deploying pliable and corrupt cadres to the executive of a critical entity like Eskom would ultimately sink the utility and drag the country down with it.

And an admission that the relentless looting of Eskom through crooked procurement deals and kickbacks, which has become synonymous with this ANC government, could only ever have one outcome: the destruction of South Africa.

Kusile power station is symbolic of all these failures

Construction on Kusile began in 2007 and it was meant to be completed eight years ago, in 2014, and for a budget of R80 billion.

It is now 2022, its final budget estimate has inflated to well over R200 billion, and it’s still not finished.

Kusile has six generation units, but as we speak four of them are down, and will be that way for months, if not years.

Kusile, along with the Medupi station in Limpopo, was meant to be the ANC’s answer to our looming energy crisis. But instead of alleviating the pressure, they’ve simply added to it.

And let us not forget that both Medupi and Kusile saw some of the worst looting in our country’s history. In 2019 a corruption scandal was revealed here at Kusile which involved various Eskom executives, at least four contractors, and R10 billion worth of contracts.

This is not a state-of-the-art power station. This the ANC’s monument to load-shedding.

A massive construction reminding us why they cannot be trusted with our country’s energy plan, or our country’s future, for that matter.

The good news is that they won’t be in charge of this for much longer – they’re a party in rapid decline and very likely won’t see another term of office. But 2024 is not soon enough. This needs to be fixed now.

And so I call on President Ramaphosa to come home right away and address the nation on his plans to avert the disaster of a grid collapse.

And by plans, I mean actual interventions and not just platitudes and vague statements about Eskom having turned a corner.

South Africans are sick and tired of those stories because we’ve been hearing for years how things are looking up at Eskom and how load-shedding will soon be a thing of the past, and yet nothing changes.

Words alone won’t fix this mess. You cannot will it better with thoughts and prayers. You have to be honest about what caused it, and you have to be bold in how you change trajectory.

Since loadshedding began fifteen years ago, the DA has been offering government an endless stream of workable solutions on how to stabilise our electricity supply and turn Eskom around. Those solutions can no longer be ignored.

The very first thing President Ramaphosa needs to do when he steps off the plane is to declare a ring-fenced State of Disaster around Eskom.

This should have been done months ago, when he presented his Energy Response Plan, and his refusal then to concede the urgency and scale of the disaster has now left our grid on the brink of collapse.

This State of Disaster needs to be declared right away so that disaster relief funding can be reprioritised in order to keep the open-cycle turbines running in the immediate term.

But more importantly, a State of Disaster will allow government to bypass its own self-imposed obstacles, bottlenecks and cost inflations in the form of unworkable labour legislation, localisation requirements, cadre deployment and preferential procurement.

These ANC policies lie at the heart of Eskom’s collapse and need to be set aside if the utility is to recover.

Secondly, President Ramaphosa needs to assemble an Energy War Cabinet to see our country through this crisis.

A threat to National Security demands an appropriate response. If he could do so during his government’s Covid lockdowns, he can certainly do so now.

Importantly, this War Cabinet should contain independent experts in the energy field who know what a recovery will require, and who can counterbalance the ideological drag of his ANC cabinet and his deadbeat Energy Minister.

They must be given free rein to act in the interest of the country and not the party.

And finally, President Ramaphosa must agree to urgently address the critical skills shortage at Eskom.

From the executive to management to employees, the utility desperately needs experts in power generation. Most of the critical jobs at Eskom are currently held by people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Those experts are out there – some here in South Africa, some abroad – and we need to recruit them into Eskom as a matter of urgency.

Forget cadre deployment, forget the made-up rules on employment equity, all that matters here is employing the people who can save Eskom and save our country.

When the City of Cape Town was facing the very real prospect of taps running dry a few years ago, they didn’t overcome the challenge alone. They leant heavily on outside experts to guide them through the crisis, and they also called on the public to become part of the solution.

This combination of government response, independent expert guidance and public buy-in through dramatically reduced water usage is ultimately what saw Cape Town survive the drought crisis.

This is what we now need to replicate on a national level if we want to avert the catastrophe of a grid collapse. Never before has this “whole of society” approach been more critical.

President Ramaphosa and his government need to stick their pride and their ideology in their pockets and cast the net wide for help and expertise.

Bring in experts into a War Cabinet, bring back experienced engineers to Eskom, and make ordinary citizens part of the solution by speaking to them honestly and frequently about what they should do to change consumption behaviour.

It also wouldn’t hurt the President to take a leaf from the DA’s book. We may not be in national government yet, but that hasn’t stopped our local and provincial governments from doing all they can to beat load-shedding.

The City of Cape Town has embarked on several projects to reduce its dependency on Eskom and shield residents from load-shedding, and is pioneering a number of new energy interventions.

It has put out a tender for its first Ground Mounted Solar PV Plant in Atlantis, which should be constructed next year. This would then pave the way for even bigger solar plants to be built by the City in the near future.

The City is also currently evaluating bids from its IPP tender, which will ultimately result in a power purchase agreement that will run over a 20 to 25 year period.

When it comes to small-scale embedded generation by households and businesses, Cape Town is leading the way by being the first city in the country with a registration process and basic standards for such generation, as well as an incentive feed-in tariff for customers who have grid-tied systems.

The City is also undertaking a pilot programme which will look to wheel electricity to customers who want to buy energy from third-party suppliers.

And then there is the City’s pumped hydro-storage scheme at the Steenbras Dam, which was optimised earlier this year and now protects City of Cape Town customers from two stages of load-shedding.

In Johannesburg, the DA-led coalition government has also embarked on a multi-pronged approach to reducing its reliance on Eskom, shielding residents from load-shedding, moving Johannesburg to a greener and more resilient source of energy, and ensuring that the energy plan is environmentally sustainable.

This includes launching phase 1 of the City’s IPP bid process, preparing for the rollout of 15,000 solar powered geysers to old age homes, orphanages, shelters and other vulnerable residents, replacing street light units with LED bulbs, installing high-mast solar-powered lights in high crime areas, and supporting community groups that protect infrastructure from cable thieves during load-shedding.

These interventions alone will not save South Africa from Eskom’s failure, but when combined, they can make a massive difference and buy us critical time to get our country’s energy generation fixed.

This is what we mean when we talk of a whole of society solution: contributions of all shapes and sizes, where the sum of the parts can help stave off the catastrophe of a grid collapse.

But first we need President Ramaphosa to grasp the severity of the crisis.

He needs to recognise that we are already in the midst of a crisis of National Security, and he needs to act like a president with a plan to get us out of this crisis.

This plan has to include the help of outside experts in an Energy War Cabinet, it has to include a ring-fenced State of Disaster, and it has to include bringing back critical skills to Eskom.

And then we need to see him on TV every week, with a detailed and honest update on how this plan is progressing.

That is the very least the people of South Africa deserve from their president.

It’s not too late yet to avert this crisis, but very soon it will be. We cannot allow that to happen.

Thank you.

The DA is fighting, and winning, the battle of ideas

The following article by DA Leader John Steenhuisen was published in News24 this week and is republished here. Part 2 to follow. 

Often an idea seems good at the time, or at least harmless, and it is only years later once the consequences have played out that those who warned against it are vindicated. By then, it seems obvious that the idea was bad all along, and almost no one admits to ever having supported it, or acknowledges that those who warned against it were derided for doing so.

The DA has many times warned against a decision and been labelled alarmist, or even racist, but then proved correct years later. Hardly ever have commentators acknowledged that we were right and that great harm, suffered most keenly by the poor majority, could have been avoided had our warnings been heeded.

Our 2009 “Stop Zuma” campaign met howls of indignation at the time, but silence years later when Zuma went on to break our institutions and sell the country to the highest bidder. The immense loss and damage were avoidable.

I highlight more of these instances here, not to say: “we told you so”, but to build public trust in the DA’s ideas. We want people to know that we care enough to do the hard work of considering not just the immediate, but also the longer-term consequences of decisions, and how they will impact not just specific groups, but everyone. We care enough to propose good ideas and call out bad ones, even if it makes us unpopular at the time.

Cadre Deployment

For 25 years since its adoption in 1997, the DA has warned time and time again that the ANC’s policy of deploying loyal cadres into every institution of state in order to control all “levers of power” would fundamentally derail the project of building a prosperous South Africa.

We warned that public appointments based on political loyalty rather than merit would inevitably erode the ability of the state to deliver on its mandate. And we warned that it would destroy the ability of our democratic institutions to check and balance power, leading to corruption, cronyism, impunity and capture.

Our decades-long fight against cadre deployment achieved an extraordinary success last month, with cabinet officially endorsing the DA’s position that cadre deployment prevents the building of a capable public service and must therefore be “ditched”. That, along with the Zondo Report’s finding that the policy is “illegal and unconstitutional”, constitutes massive vindication of the DA’s long-held position.

Of course, this policy about-turn still needs to be implemented in practice. The DA’s legal case to have cadre deployment ruled illegal remains vital. Forcing cadre deployment out of the public service employment framework will be a massive win for the DA on behalf of South Africans.

Public Protector

In 2016, the DA was the only party to vote in Parliament against the appointment of Busisiwe Mkhwebane as Public Protector. We did so on the bases that she lacked the appropriate experience for such a high profile and socially important position, that she was not a suitable candidate as she had been a government spy employed by the State Security Agency, and that hers was a politically motivated deployment. Our position has since been vindicated.

Far from protecting people against the abuse of executive power, she has rather sought to protect those power abusers. Her impeachment hearings last week, themselves a result of a DA motion in the National Assembly, revealed that she spent around R147 million in legal fees to defend poor quality reports emanating from her office. Six damaging years later there is general agreement her appointment was a bad idea.

Cost of Living

In response to the cost-of-living crisis that has left 80% of families unable to afford three meals a day, the DA in consultation with economists drew up a set of relief proposals. In the lead up to October’s mid-term budget statement, we fought hard to expand the list of food items that are zero-rated for VAT, and other interventions to bring down the cost of living for South Africa’s poorest households.

In his mid-term budget speech, Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana failed to even mention South Africa’s cost of living crisis, let alone address it.  The DA will keep up the pressure for these interventions ahead of his February budget, because we know that the socioeconomic cost of ignoring this crisis is far higher than the cost of addressing it.

Ministerial Handbook

Fortunately, not all our battles take years to bear fruit. Last month, the DA spotted and exposed changes to the Ministerial Handbook, signed off in April by President Ramaphosa, which gave his cabinet unlimited taxpayer-funded water and electricity at their homes, on top of taxpayer-funded generators, so shielding them from the effects of their own bad ideas that have wreaked such havoc in the lives of ordinary South Africans. The public outrage this sparked led to a hasty retraction, another DA victory on behalf of South Africans.

BEE

The DA has been slammed by all and sundry for opposing race-based procurement policies, which go under the misleading name of Black Economic Empowerment. But public opinion is starting to swing and soon it will be accepted by everyone that it was a bad idea all along.

There is now a growing realisation that BEE is an idea that sounds good in name and theory but has terrible real-life consequences, because it leads to inefficient state spending and corruption.

High electricity prices and load-shedding for all (except cabinet ministers of course) while BEE tenderpreneurs rake in millions in coal and other Eskom contracts have brought the message home that BEE is unfair. By adding an extra layer of cost and complexity to government tenders, it harms the excluded black majority most, since they are most reliant on efficient, affordable government services.

The DA has proposed a need- and disadvantage-based model instead, set out in our Economic Justice Policy, that promotes value-for-money government procurement while still incentivising private sector organisations to contribute where they can make the biggest positive social impact.

Our policy targets the vulnerable and disadvantaged, a much larger group of predominantly black South Africans, while BEE targets a small group. Ours is based on a globally recognised model which attracts investment while BEE deters investment. Ours is a good idea that will work in practice while BEE is a good-sounding bad idea that doesn’t work in practice.

Child Support Grant

The DA has long held that the Child Support Grant should be pegged to the food poverty line, to meet their basic nutritional needs and ensure a diversity of dietary intake. This year, the Social Development Department finally acknowledged that this should indeed be the case, on the back of the recent surge in child malnutrition cases, with 1 009 children dying of malnutrition in public hospitals in the year to March 2022.

Despite popular misconceptions, research has shown that the child grant is generally well used and improves child nutrition, health and education outcomes. It is a good idea, that all of society should get behind.

Electoral Thresholds

Last month, the DA proposed five legislative changes that would help to stabilise coalitions, most crucially an electoral threshold requiring a political party to secure at least 1% of the overall vote to qualify for seats in a legislature or council.

Tiny parties with minimal electoral support should not be able to determine whether the ANC or DA runs a government. That is a subversion of democracy. Yet this has happened in many local governments recently, most notably Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni.

With the era of one-party domination ending, South Africa’s electoral legislation needs to cater for coalition politics. Other countries with Proportional Representation electoral systems have set electoral thresholds to avoid this instability. In Germany, parties require a minimum of 5% of the electorate’s support to get into national government while in Denmark it is 2%, Austria 4%, Belgium 5%, and Greece 3%.

Without legislative changes, the same kind of coalition instability we’re seeing in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni will happen at national level too after 2024, disrupting service delivery and possibly even rendering South Africa ungovernable.  This DA will be introducing this good idea in a Private Member’s Bill.

Other

In the fullness of time the DA will be proved right on many other ideas too, such as the need for a flexible labour market, decentralised policing, and secure property rights. We will continue to oppose bad ideas such as NHI, the BELA Bill, the Expropriation Bill, and the Employment Equity Bill.

Conclusion

The measure of a good idea is if it works, and works for all rather than a connected few. Good ideas can set a country up for generations of success while bad ideas can cause decades of human suffering. In pursuit of a prosperous, successful South Africa, the DA will keep fighting, and winning, the battle of ideas.

The revolution has failed. Let’s try devolution.

The following article by DA Leader John Steenhuisen was published in News24 this week and is republished here in place of John’s usual newsletter.

As retired Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke put it recently, the revolution has failed. It’s harvest time, and South Africa is reaping the result of a quarter century of cadre deployment of incapable political cronies into every institution of the state. Load-shedding, water-shedding, job-shedding, investment-shedding, skills-shedding. And it won’t end there. We’re on track for fuel-shedding too.

With the national government failing on all fronts, the announcement on 26 September 2022 of the formation of the Western Cape Devolution Working Group was welcomed by many. But some interpreted it as an elitist, exclusionary first step towards Cape secession. They are mistaken.

Western Cape devolution will massively improve the lives of all those who live in the Western Cape, especially the poor. But it is also in the whole country’s interest. Let me explain.

Better services

Anyone who cares about poverty reduction, community safety, job creation and social inclusion should welcome the idea of national government assigning to the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town any services which would be better delivered by these lower levels of government.

There can be little doubt that poverty and crime would go down and living standards would improve for everyone in the Western Cape if policing services and passenger rail, for example, were devolved to the Province and City. These DA-run governments are far better positioned to deliver safety and affordable transport to the people of the province.

Not only are they geographically closer to the challenges and therefore have a better understanding of the specific issues at play, but they also have a better track record of delivery. Their LEAP programme, which deploys crime-fighting resources to Cape Town’s 13 murder hotspots, has already yielded positive results.

Closer to people

Devolution is consistent with the constitutional principle of subsidiarity, which holds that social issues should be dealt with at the lowest effective level. Bringing government as close as possible to the people tends to yield better outcomes, by increasing responsiveness, knowledge, accountability and collaboration.

It makes it easier for citizens to hold public officials accountable and brings on board more resources by enabling collaboration between government and local community groups. This all-of-society approach has been instrumental in bringing murder rates down in Cape Town’s crime hotspots, where LEAP officers have worked closely with SAPS, community policing forums and neighbourhood watch groups.

Inclusive

Far from being an elite pursuit as some commentators oddly suggested, Western Cape devolution will benefit poor communities most since, being unable to afford private transport and security, they are most reliant on govt services such rail and policing.

As he set out in his well-titled article Getting Capetonians back on track on Monday, Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis is determined to build a reliable and integrated public transport system for Capetonians with rail as its backbone. This will reduce the cost and time it takes people to get to work and play.

The City of Cape Town is soon to release the first findings of its feasibility study in response to national government’s recent White Paper on National Transport Policy, which opens the way for devolution of public transport to competent cities.

In South Africa’s interest

But it’s not just those living in the province who will benefit from Western Cape devolution. South Africa as a whole will be better off. First, and quite simply, because a stronger, more prosperous Western Cape will contribute jobs, economic growth and tax revenue to South Africa.

Second, because Western Cape devolution will set an important precedent for any other provinces and metros able to improve on national government delivery. If a DA-led coalition runs Gauteng after the national and provincial elections in 2024, then Western Cape devolution will clear the path for Gauteng devolution too. KZN also looks likely to be shot of the ANC after 2024. Together, these three provinces account for two thirds of South Africa’s economy.

Third, because devolution to provinces and metros opens the opportunity to try different approaches, which could then be applied elsewhere. It will show South Africans that progress is possible and relentless decline not inevitable.

Removes pressure for secession

Far from being a steppingstone to secession, devolution will decrease the pressure for this. As the South African state fails, so calls for Cape independence ramp up. Far better to release that pressure through devolution than secession. Ultimately, it’s not the route but the outcome that people care about. They want to know there is a future for themselves and their children where they live. Devolution is the achievable, realistic path to the progress they want to see.

Realistic and achievable

The South African Constitution allows for devolution in many instances. Section 99 says that a Cabinet member may assign any power or function that is to be exercised or performed in terms of an Act of Parliament to a member of a provincial Executive Council or to a Municipal Council.

Section 156 (4) says that the national and provincial governments must assign to a municipality, by agreement and subject to any conditions, the administration of a matter which necessarily relates to local government, if that matter would most effectively be administered locally, and if the municipality has the capacity to administer it.

It is now up to the Western Cape Devolution Working Group, and the Province and City, to win public and national government support for devolution by showing that it will reduce poverty, improve lives, grow the economy, and offer South Africa a way to bend its trajectory towards progress, social inclusion and shared prosperity.

The DA’s plan to cut food costs

South Africa is in the throes of a hunger crisis. Four out of five households are skipping at least one daily meal while two out of five households say they can’t feed their families anymore, according to a recent survey. As Gift of the Giver’s CEO Imtiaz Suleiman pointed out yesterday, the problem is very serious and growing.

MTBPS

Five weeks ago, I sent President Ramaphosa a set of researched policy proposals for cutting food costs. On Wednesday, the DA took this fight directly to Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana ahead of his medium term budget policy statement next week, which is government’s ideal opportunity to intervene. Godongwana may argue that he cannot afford to take these measures. But the cost of ignoring the hunger crisis will be much higher than the cost of addressing it.

Social harm

This hunger crisis and lack of diverse nutrition is harming our society in terrible ways. Hungry schoolchildren are battling to concentrate and learn. For many, school is the only place they get a meal. Stunting, when a child has significantly low height for age, was already affecting one in four children under age five compromising their immune system, brain function, organ development and life prospects.

Increased malnutrition is leading to reduced productivity in the workplace, obesity (from shifting to a cheaper, high-carbohydrate diet), and diet-related diseases, all of which will cost the fiscus and the health system dearly. Worse still is the increased risk and incidence of death from starvation.

Taxing food

The DA has proposed a review of the current zero-rated list of food items, with a view to dropping the 15% VAT on those items most commonly purchased by the poorest 50% of households, such as bone-in chicken, tinned beans, wheat flour, margarine, peanut butter, baby food, tea, and coffee.

Zero-rating bone-in chicken would cost approximately R3 billion, but experts have suggested it would pay for itself through improved health, work and learning outcomes. Bone-in chicken is a high-quality source of protein and by far the most popular one for poor households, making up 14% of low-income household food budgets. Poor South Africans need an affordable source of protein to prevent them shifting to a less nutritious high-carb diet as their budget is squeezed. It is also versatile and quick to cook, saving on energy costs.

We’ve also recommended dropping import tariffs on pasta and those chicken categories most commonly eaten by the very lowest-income households such as chicken carcasses, which they use to make broth. The benefit to society will far outweigh the negligible impact on our fiscus.

Taxing fuel

The DA has advised government to reduce the tax on fuel. This will decrease the cost of food because the high cost of transporting food is pushing up food prices at the till. Plus lower transport costs for the poor will mean more money for food.

Aiding Cuba

We’ve also advised government to reallocate the planned R50 million “food aid” for Cuba to rather feed hungry people at home. More likely, this money will go to the ANC’s mates in the Cuban government who will pay kickbacks in one form or another to the ANC.

These interventions will bring some immediate relief. But the DA has also recommended policies that will improve food security and affordability in the longer term.

Private title

We are pressuring government to provide private title to all land reform beneficiaries on state land and landholders in communal areas. By making more land productive, the increase in private land ownership will increase food production and improve food security while bringing down the cost of food.

Economic reform

The longer term solution is of course to open our economy for jobs, investment and growth, by implementing the many reforms the DA has for years recommended. Millions of jobs will be created in South Africa if we make it a place that attracts investment and scarce skills, a place where small businesses can easily start and grow. Getting people back on their feet by getting them into jobs is the best way to build resilience against hunger.

The DA is growing future leaders

“If you build it, they will come.”

Every year since 2007, the DA enrolls twenty or so of South Africa’s best and brightest young people into our Young Leaders Programme (YLP). This is an intense year-long leadership development programme that turns young people with potential into young people with the political skills and knowledge they need to effectively lead and serve the party and the country.

It’s been highly successful so far, having attracted a diverse range of youngsters and produced such remarkable alumni as current Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis, DA Chief Whip in the National Assembly Siviwe Gwarube, DA Head of Policy Gwen Ngwenya, DA National Spokespersons Solly Malatsi and Cilliers Brink, and uMngeni Mayor Chris Pappas – to name but a few.

The programme has run for 15 years, and the early cohorts are really coming into their own. Not a moment too soon. Now more than ever South Africa needs young people to step up to the plate and lead. Not least because young people in leadership add the dynamism and energy needed to attract the younger electorate and get them politically engaged to come out and vote for the future they want. But also because South Africa’s political system needs the youth skill set and long-term outlook. The current average age of parliamentarians is 60, while that of South Africa is 27.

While many fixate on the need for black leaders, the DA fixates on the need for good leaders. Individuals who make it onto the programme each year are those who have already demonstrated a high level of emotional intelligence, true desire to be involved in politics and public service, initiative, confidence, the ability to argue and reason well, a leadership track record, alignment to the DA’s values, and authentic commitment to our vision of building an open, opportunity society for all.

Those who graduate a year later have honed these attributes and acquired a thorough understanding of the DA’s principles and policies and in-depth knowledge of South African politics, political system and current affairs.

So it should come as no surprise that YLP alumni occupy the full gamut of leadership positions in the DA and South Africa, including as provincial ministers (MECs Reagen Allen, Daylin Mitchel, Mireille Wenger, Tertius Simmers), national shadow ministers (Cilliers Brink, Solly Malatsi, Zakhele Mbhele, Luyolo Mphiti, Emma Powell, Andrew Whitfield), DA provincial leaders (Solly Msimanga in Gauteng), members of mayoral councils (MMCs Zahid Badroodien in Cape Town, Motsamai Mokete in Midvaal, Lwando Nkamisa and Carli van Wyk in Stellenbosch), deputy chair of the DA’s federal council (Ashor Sarupen), heads of provincial ministries (Odette Slabbert), heads of DA departments (Aimee Franklin), councillors (Khathutshelo Rasilingwane in Ekurhuleni and others), chiefs of staff, provincial spokespersons and others, too many to mention.

This deep leadership pool has built the resilience that has seen our party through its many challenges and that will see us go from strength to strength in the years ahead.

Over the past decades and centuries, South Africans have prospered or suffered at the hands of good or bad leadership. Indeed, history shows that everything rises and falls on leadership. As South Africa approaches its moonshot election in 2024 – the country’s once-off chance to replace bad leadership with good while there is still something left to save – the need for a wide array of capable, solid leaders is as strong as ever. The DA’s Young Leaders Programme has been working toward this moment for fifteen years and it’s been a brilliant investment.

PS. Applications for the DA Young Leaders Programme are now open, and close on 31 August 2022. Click here to apply.

South Africans can fix South Africa with a government that empowers them

Help people to help themselves. Empower individuals and communities to solve their own problems and build their own lives. Work with people rather than against them. Unlock private sector investment by cutting red tape. Be open for business. Devolve power where possible. Collaborate, cooperate, support, empower. This is the DA’s approach to government.
 
The ANC’s approach of jealously guarding power and ruling from on high has broken South Africa. Don’t allow them to blame foreigners or the Constitution. And don’t fall for their quick-fix solutions that give them even more power, such as NHI, stronger employment equity legislation, more sector masterplans, SARB nationalization, and expropriation – all of which are being trotted out now in an effort to hold the party together and shore up its dwindling support. That way lies more ruin.
 
South Africa needs fixing, and fast, before lawlessness and instability spread further. This country is fixable with a government that empowers everyone to get stuck in. Realistically, decentralised control is the only way forward. We must unleash the creativity and resources, incentives and ingenuity of all the people of South Africa.
 
Harnessing people power
 
DA-run Western Cape and Cape Town are pursuing a decentralised approach to build resilient communities, a healthy economy, and a safe society. Some recent examples.
 
Education MEC David Maynier met with the CEO of Spark Schools this week about the provision of low-fee, quality education by the private sector in the Western Cape, to see how the province can support this initiative. The province welcomes the private sector’s contribution.
 
The province’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism this week revealed that the province has received R103 billion in Foreign Direct Investment into its technology sector in the past decade. It has successfully positioned itself as “Africa’s Tech Capital” by partnering with Wesgro and GreenCape to attract private investment rather than by over-regulating this growth sector.
 
Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis this week published an article answering the most common questions about installing private solar generation in the City. DA-run Cape Town is doing everything possible to enable businesses and households to generate their own electricity and earn money by feeding excess power into the grid. The DA has long urged the minister of energy and NERSA to cut red tape and allow independent power suppliers to get on the grid and to devolve power to competent municipalities to buy, produce and sell energy directly.
 
The City is harnessing people power by rewarding residents who report illegal dumping, and by increasing budget support (to over R7 million) to equip neighbourhood watches in support of residents who give of their time freely to make their communities safer.
 
The murder rate in the Cape Town suburb of Kraaifontein has been nearly halved, thanks to an all-hands-on-deck approach whereby the City and Province’s joint LEAP initiative (Law Enforcement Advancement Programme) has partnered with SAPS, neighbourhood watches, the community policing forum, and churches in the area to bring down crime. Just this week another 100 graduates were deployed to the LEAP programme, bringing the total to 1100 LEAP officers.
 
Devolution
 
The Province and City are pushing for devolution of policing to competent provinces and metros, as the best way to restore law and order. They have amply shown that they will do a better job of keeping people safe than the national government does. Devolution of policing is fully within the scope of the Constitution and experience around the world shows that policing is done better when it is brought closer to communities.
 
Federalism is a core DA value. It is defined as the devolution of power between different spheres of government (national, provincial, local) to the lowest effective level, to ensure decisions are made close as possible to the people, communities and businesses they affect. In line with this value, the City has also embarked on a feasibility study to have power over passenger rail devolved to it, so that it can build an integrated, quality public transport system for residents.
 
Creating jobs, growing the economy, ending poverty
 
Similarly, if we’re going to create jobs, grow the economy and end poverty, economic decision-making power needs to be decentralised to individuals and businesses in what the DA calls a social market economy.
 
Current overregulation at the hands of such socialists as trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel, mining and energy minister Gwede Mantashe, and labour minister Thulas Nxesi is killing investment, stifling job creation, and fueling poverty and instability.
 
Overregulation in the form of the Mining Charter has deterred investment in mining and given rise to the phenomenon of Zama Zamas (illegal miners who operate under dangerous conditions and outside the tax system). Overregulation in the form of local content requirements, BEE, employment equity and other regulations has similarly crippled our electricity sector. The recent temporary lifting of restrictions on local content requirements and chicken imports, to ease the electricity and the cost of living crises respectively, are both tacit admissions that these restrictions harm society.
 
Less red tape and more decentralised economic decision-making leads to more investment, more jobs, and more tax revenue to be spent by government on growing equality of opportunity and providing strong safety nets and trampolines for the vulnerable. It’s a virtuous circle that a DA-led national government will embrace. We believe government’s role in the economy is to create the enabling environment and be a referee (in ensuring open and competitive markets and protecting the environment) rather than a player.
 
Power to the people
 
The DA is working to prevent the centralization of power and thereby to put more power in the hands of ordinary South Africans. We have gone to court to have the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment declared illegal and unconstitutional in a bid to prevent the party from controlling all levers of political and economic power.

While the minister of small business development is about to gazette yet another socialist ANC Masterplan, the DA is calling for the scrapping of rigid labour legislation, collective bargaining and BEE requirements for small businesses so that entrepreneurs can be freed up to create jobs on a massive scale.
 
We are fighting NHI (National Health Insurance) because the solution to our dysfunctional health system is to fix and capacitate our clinics and hospitals, train more doctors and nurses, and harness the private sector, not to centralise more power in our incapable bloated bureaucracy. It is outrageous that government has approved R30 million towards employing 44 personnel for the NHI Scheme, which has not been passed through parliament, and plans to allocate more resources next year to fund an NHI staff of 120 people. Yet hospitals battle extreme shortages and patients suffer in horrific conditions.
 
The DA is also opposing the controversial BELA Bill which will rob school governing bodies of the power to determine their own language and admissions policies, and hand that power over to ANC cadres.
 
And we strongly oppose nationalizing the Reserve Bank, an anti-growth plan that President Ramaphosa appeared to support last weekend. It would give government power to unduly influence the country’s money supply and banking sector. The Reserve Bank needs to be left in independent, technocratic hands so that it can be free to take necessary, often unpopular decisions in the country’s best long-term interest.

Conclusion
 
Rather than fall for xenophobic scapegoating and populist short-cuts that give the ANC more power and lead to more ruin, South Africans need to take back their power so that together we can do the real hard work of fixing and building for all. The DA cares deeply about South Africa. We are committed to decentralizing control because we believe in the people of this country and their ability to fix South Africa together if given the chance.
 
PS. Applications for the DA Young Leaders Programme are now open, and close on 31 August 2022. Click here to apply.

Power to the people

Fifteen years into the electricity crisis and 24 years after energy experts and the DA first warned government about looming power shortages, President Ramaphosa on Sunday announced an energy crisis plan that finally makes sense.

The plan is to open the electricity sector to independent power producers of all sizes and to fix Eskom by bringing back skilled engineers and holding malfeasance accountable. The DA and energy experts have been calling for this approach all along, and Andre De Ruyter has been calling for it since he became Eskom CEO.

Crucially, the plan vindicates each one of the DA’s four core principles for organizing society. The ANC-created energy crisis illustrates why each of these principles is an essential prerequisite for a successful South Africa.

Commitment to the rule of law

Eskom will not be fixed until corruption and sabotage are dealt with decisively and those who break the law are held accountable. Looters must be forced to pay back the money and saboteurs jailed for the destruction they have wreaked on society. Eskom has accumulated R400 billion of debt because corruption has been allowed to flourish unchecked. The utility was forced to resort to Stage 6 loadshedding because saboteurs knew they could get away with breaking the law in pursuit of their selfish interests.

The rule of law advances the common good and protects the weak against the mighty, preventing the abuse of power and empowering ordinary people. It promotes order, stability, fairness and economic growth. At the heart of the rule of law is the principle of accountability, which requires openness and transparency. This is why the DA has initiated a process for a parliamentary ad hoc committee to oversee President Ramaphosa’s new National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM) established to drive his energy crisis plan.

The president has located the NECOM in the Office of the Presidency, the only ministry without a dedicated parliamentary oversight committee. The DA yesterday unveiled our 10-point action plan to improve parliament’s ability to hold the executive accountable, with a dedicated committee to oversee the Presidency being one of them. Even Chief Justice Zondo pointed out this omission in his report.

The president has centralized more and more power in his office, to the point that he has effectively outsourced power to a parallel cabinet that bypasses parliamentary accountability. His motivation may be that his own cabinet is simply incapable of solving South Africa’s energy and other problems. But nonetheless the centralization of power in the presidency is an extremely concerning trend that must be reversed. South Africa needs decentralized decision-making that brings power closer to people. Which brings us to the DA’s second core principle.

Commitment to a social market economy

A social market economy refers to an economy in which individuals, households and businesses rather than the government hold the decision-making power over what to purchase, where to invest, and how much to produce. Government has an important role to play in improving access to markets by championing open and competitive markets. The ANC has instead chosen to guard Eskom’s monopoly fiercely with a barricade of bureaucratic red tape because the utility has been their prime source of patronage and procurement corruption.

The DA wants an open, competitive energy market where everyone is allowed to buy and sell, because this drives supply up and prices down. Opening the energy market to private producers will bring online a diversity of supply, making South Africa’s energy system more flexible (giving it the ability to adapt quickly to change) and therefore more resilient (giving it the ability to recover quickly from adversity), and more sustainable both from a financial and environmental point of view.

A market economy is all about empowerment. Empowering organisations, households and municipalities to generate and sell electricity provides people with more electrical power and also with more financial power, because it grows the economy and jobs.

The energy crisis plan should have gone further and specifically removed all constraints on competent municipalities and metros from generating, buying and selling power. Nevertheless, DA governments haven’t sat around waiting for permission to do what is best for their residents, which is to purchase lowest-cost power where they can, to drive electricity prices down and supply up. Many are already making real progress towards energy security.

Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced this week that the City will pay cash for excess electricity sold back to the grid by commercial and industrial generators. This is a first in South Africa and will soon be rolled out to households too. DA-run Stellenbosch already gets over 5 MW of electricity from private and municipal solar panels and are eager for commercial and industrial generators to feed as much energy as they can back to the grid. DA-led Ekurhuleni has signed up over 40 independent producers. Other DA governments are following in these footsteps.

A market economy rather than a centrally controlled economy is all the more important in South Africa’s context of an incapable state, where government from the cabinet down simply lacks the capacity to solve problems, and where technical know-how resides mainly in the private sector. This brings us to the DA’s third core organizing principle for society.

Commitment to building a capable state

The plan to bring back skilled engineers who were pushed out of Eskom, and the formation of NECOM to drive the plan, reflects the importance of a capable state. The DA has long called for public appointments based on merit alone. Ability to deliver to the public must be the only consideration so that the poor, who are most reliant on the state, get the best possible service delivery at the lowest possible prices.

Building a capable state requires commitment to the principle of the separation of party and state. The Zondo Commission laid bare that the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment caused the state capture, corruption and hollowing out of capacity that sent Eskom into a death spiral taking South Africa’s economy with it. The DA is fighting in court to have cadre deployment declared unconstitutional and illegal, as per Chief Justice Zondo’s conclusion. It is shameful that President Ramaphosa has decided to use taxpayer money to defend this policy in court.

Commitment to nonracialism

The crisis plan shows that when the rubber hits the road, the ability of public servants to deliver is far more important than their race. Draining Eskom of highly skilled white engineers may have done wonders to grow the ANC’s patronage system, but it came at the expense of access to reliable, low-cost electricity for all, jobs for the unemployed, and a healthy growing fiscus. Real social transformation is about the latter.

The president’s plan should have gone further and waived all preferential procurement requirements for the energy sector, which add cost and complexity and greatly delay processes that are urgent. They may enrich a small, connected elite, but again this is at the expense of real transformation that requires low-cost energy and economic growth and access to opportunities for all.

The DA agrees absolutely on the need for social transformation. SA’s high and racialized inequality is appalling and unacceptable. But short cuts like replacing engineers with cadres and tenders for pals is not the way to do it. President Ramaphosa’s R55 billion for 700 black industrialists has done nothing to pull 35 million South Africans out of deep poverty and comes at their expense. Real social transformation is set out in the Bill of Rights not in the BEE codes.

Timing

Why did energy shortages and Eskom debt have to reach crisis proportions before this plan was announced? It was introduced with great reluctance and only because South Africa’s energy system has been destroyed to the point where it is now hurting the ANC’s prospects for re-election.

South Africa cannot afford to reach crisis point before we learn the lessons and bring the necessary change. Judge John Hlophe was finally suspended by the Judicial Service Commission this week, having done immeasurable harm to the Western Cape judiciary for twelve years. We don’t have the luxury of responding so slowly to matters that harm society.

The DA cares deeply about South Africa and we are committed to bringing real change that empowers all South Africans. We strive to implement our core principles where we govern, and we are striving to show that multi-party coalitions built around these core principles can bring the progress South Africa so needs. Today we are announcing a multi-party government for Nelson Mandela Bay, and in 2024 we hope to do the same for South Africa.