Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma: National State of Disaster pertaining to impact of severe electricity supply constraints

3 Mar 2023

Remarks by Minister Dlamini Zuma: Joint briefing on electricity disaster

Cabinet colleagues present today Directors General
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Good Morning

Thank you for joining us as we unpack subsequent steps and the work unfolding, following the declaration of the national state of disaster, given the prevailing energy crisis. This declaration, as announced by the President during the State of the Nation address, was in response to the severe impact of the intermittent electricity supply across the country.

Eskom continues to experience several operational challenges that have inevitably affected the efficiency of power stations and ultimately the capacity to provide uninterrupted supply of electricity. Whilst addressing these challenges, the power utility was compelled to invoke load shedding at escalating stages (up to stage 6) to protect the national grid from a national blackout; the consequences of which would be catastrophic.

Notwithstanding the progress made to reduce the energy constraints, there is still a substantial impact the severe electricity supply constraint had on the economy and on society at large, especially if it went unmitigated and ultimately progressed to a total blackout. The anticipated prospects of a total blackout warranted the occurrence under the current circumstances to be perceived as a disaster, as envisioned by the definition of a disaster set out in Section 1 of the Disaster Management Act.

….all sectors of our country are negatively affected by the electricity challenges and it was therefore important to respond decisively to remedy the severe electricity supply constraints.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Taking into account that Section 26, read with Section 23 of the Act, assigns the primary responsibility to coordinate and manage the disaster in terms of the existing legislation and contingency arrangements to the National Executive, a special cabinet meeting considered all the inputs and reports that led to the classification of the disaster by the Disaster Centre.

I declared the National State of Disaster as designated under Section 3 of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Act No. 57 of 2002) ("the Act "), in terms of –

  • Section 27(1) of the Act, having recognized that special circumstances exist to warrant the declaration of a national state of disaster; and
  • Section 27(2) of the Act whereby I may, when required, make regulations or issue directions or authorize the issue of directions concerning the matters listed therein.

This National State of Disaster emphasises our determination to support and work with all South Africans and sectors negatively affected by the electricity supply constraints. Through the Disaster Declaration, effective and coordinated response across all spheres and other sectors will be enhanced, thus also allowing for mobilisation of resources, capabilities and technical expertise.

The state of disaster is enabling us to provide practical measures that we need to take to protect health, water, critical electronic communication, rail and ports infrastructure and support businesses in the food production, storage and retail supply chain, including for the rollout of generators, solar panels and uninterrupted power supply.

Having declared the national state of disaster, and after consultation with the relevant Cabinet members, I published the regulations which aim to protect and provide relief to the public and to deal with the destructive nature and other effects of the disaster by, among others;

  1. minimising the impact of load shedding on livelihoods, the economy, policing functions, national security, security services, education services, health services, water services, food security, communications and municipal services, amongst others;
  2. reducing and managing the impact of load shedding on service delivery to support lifesaving and specified critical infrastructure;
  3. providing measures to enable the connection of new generation supply; and
  4. providing measures to improve Eskom’s plant performance.

The Regulations emphasise the following:

  1. Cooperation between spheres of government – meaning that the national executive must act in close cooperation with provincial, municipal and other organs of state to deal with the national state of disaster.
  2. All institutions across government must, for the duration of the declared national state of disaster, within their available resources:
    1. adopt energy saving measures to contain the effects of the disaster and prevent the escalation of the electricity supply shortfall;
    2. ensure continuous operation of health facilities, water infrastructure and other specified essential infrastructure and services, including by installing alternative energy sources or other measures to provide an uninterrupted power supply;
    3. release and mobilise available resources, including human resources, stores, equipment, ships, aircraft platforms, vehicles and facilities;
    4. release their personnel for the rendering of emergency services, as contemplated in section 27(2)(b) of the Act; and
    5. provide funds for this purpose, subject to affordability.
  1. To augment the regulations, cabinet members may issue directions, for the purposes of giving effect to the objects of the disaster regulations. This can include:
  2. disseminating information required for dealing with the national state of disaster;
  3. granting of exemptions from load-shedding or reduced load shedding schedules to specified essential infrastructure and services where technically feasible, in alignment with the requirements and obligations of the System Operator and only to the extent that such exemptions or reductions would not result in an increased risk of higher stages of load shedding;
  4. maintaining security and availability of the supply of goods and services during the national state of disaster;
  5. implementing measures to remove impediments to the development or construction of new generation capacity;
  6. streamlining and expediting application and decision-making procedures for regulatory processes related to energy generation projects, including designating a single department or institution to receive and coordinate the processing of applications or stipulating maximum timeframes for decision-making;
  7. providing exemptions or expedited approvals under the Subdivision of Agricultural Land Act,1970 (Act No. 70 of 1970) and Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 2013 (Act No. 16 of 2013) to authorise land use for energy generation;
  8. requiring mobile network operators and broadcasters to issue public service announcements on the national state of disaster, at no cost to users;
  9. streamlining the application and decision-making processes for environmental authorisations, waste management licences, atmospheric emission licences, condonations and exemptions associated with energy infrastructure and generation, transmission and distribution facilities, for the duration of the national state of disaster;
  10. excluding upgrades, refurbishments, adjustments and repairs of existing energy infrastructure and existing generation, transmission and  distribution  facilities, from the provisions of the National Environmental Management Act, or any specific environmental management Act, or any regulations published in terms thereof, for the duration of the national state of disaster;
  11. facilitating the sale of electricity generated by individuals, organs of state or private institutions to license distributors as defined in the Electricity Regulation Act 2006 (Act No. 4 of 2006);
  1. issuing of rules or guidelines for licensed distributors to implement net billing and other mechanisms to facilitate small-scale embedded generation as well as wheeling of electricity;
  2. facilitating the importation of electricity by Eskom from neighbouring countries and the conclusion of contracts relating to electricity imports, on an expedited and negotiated basis in accordance with the emergency procurement procedures outlined in regulation 6; providing for the recruitment or placement of skilled personnel or appointment of Original Equipment Manufacturers by Eskom as required to deliver the Generation Recovery Plan on an expedited basis;
  3. facilitating access to servitudes on public and private land for Eskom and Eskom group companies for the purposes of expanding the national transmission network, in terms of the Expropriation Act, 1975 (Act No. 63 of 1975);
  4. requiring water boards  and municipalities  to revise the minimum  operational levels for reservoirs; increase water treatment and reservoir storage capacity; revise water treatment schedules to maximize water treatment while electricity is available or other measures; or take other measures to ensure security of water supply;
  5. exempting water boards or municipalities that are water service authorities from penalties for exceeding the notified maximum demand during periods of load shedding;
  6. enabling effective co-ordination between state departments, Eskom and other relevant entities and institutions to ensure security of electricity infrastructure;
  7. taking any other steps that may be necessary to prevent an escalation of the national state of disaster, or to alleviate, contain and minimise the effects of the national state of disaster; or
  8. taking steps to facilitate international assistance aimed at alleviating, containing or minimising the national state of disaster.

1. All directions issued in terms of these Regulations shall continue to apply  for  the duration of the national state of disaster unless, varied, amended or withdrawn by the Cabinet member responsible for such directions.

2. An activity which is permitted by an authorisation or exemption granted in terms of regulations or directions issued during the national state of disaster remains lawful notwithstanding the termination of the national state of disaster.

3. Emergency procurement procedures will be allowed, this will include:

Emergency procurement for public institutions is subject to—

  1. the Public Finance Management Act, 1999 (Act No. 1 of 1999), and the applicable emergency provisions in the Regulations or Instructions made under section 76 of that Act;
  2. the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003), and the applicable emergency provisions in the Regulations made under that Act;
  3. the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act, 2000 (Act No. 5 of 2000).

The Auditor-General shall conduct real time audits and report on the accounts, financial statements and financial management of all emergency procurement undertaken during the national state of disaster.

Accounting officers must take steps to ensure that anti-corruption measures are implemented during emergency procurement.

Any procurement undertaken using the emergency provisions referred to in (a) and (b) during the national state of disaster must be published and reported to Parliament within the month of the expenditure by accounting officers and authorities, including the details of such procurement and the reasons for deviating from normal procurement procedures. 

Ladies and gentlemen

The impact of load shedding has led to economic and social damages, public health and safety threats as well as hindrances to basic service delivery. Initial analysis by SALGA indicates that cities are incurring an overall average loss of income from between R3 to R6 million per stage load shedding per day. This is substantially high, unsustainable, and unaffordable.

Working with SALGA, we will be conducting an assessment of the impact of load shedding on municipal services, electrical infrastructure, and finances.

It is our hope that we will work together with all stakeholders to resolve this crisis and to further call on all South Africans in all sectors of the economy and our communities to help end load shedding by conserving energy, adopting energy-efficient practices, and supporting renewable energy initiatives.

In conclusion, we need to recognize that the current energy crisis are a complex issue with no easy solutions. By working together, we can find sustainable solutions to ensure that South Africa has a reliable and sustainable energy supply for years to come.

I thank you.