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The Eskom board is missing in action while the company’s executives are too defensive when communicating about rolling blackouts, especially stage 6 outages which see power go off for up to four-and-a-half hours at a time.
This was President Cyril Ramaphosa’s view as he urged the ANC and its deployees in government to improve communication on the Eskom crisis. He was delivering closing remarks to the ANC national executive committee’s three-day meeting which ended on Monday.
Ramaphosa called on ANC members to absorb criticism from angry South Africans over load-shedding, saying it was justified.
“The communication issue is important, to clearly communicate to our people what is happening and what is being done. The criticism is absolutely correct to say not much communication has been passed on to our people, all that has been passed on is ‘stage 6 load-shedding’, without giving the proper reasoning, rationale and steps being taken,” he said.
We need to move on communication, particularly to demonstrate to our people that the governing party is dealing with the matter as we are being blamed, and in a number of ways correctly so
Ramaphosa said it was important to communicate to South Africans that the causes of load-shedding were multidimensional and were not only due to strikes and aged power stations. He said there were a plethora of reasons and communication has not been robust enough.
“Post this meeting, we need to move on communication, particularly to demonstrate to our people that the governing party is dealing with the matter as we are being blamed, and in a number of ways correctly so.
“The board is absent in action and management has been very defensive. We need to be much more robust,” he said.
“One would want to suggest that once that communication comes through, there needs to be support or less negative innuendo and barbs thrown at what we are trying to do.
“I think we need to take care not to load blame on our people. Our people are reeling, they are suffering from load-shedding, and this is not the time to be casting blame on them. What we need to be doing is not to shift blame, but to accept responsibility and act to repair the system. Thereafter, we can have meaningful conversations with our people,” he said.
Ramaphosa said suggestions that the government should declare a state of disaster when it comes to the energy crisis had “great attraction” and revolved on what people needed “right now”.
He said people did not want to hear medium- to long-term promises about further megawatts being procured.
“Our people want to hear today, now, that load-shedding is going to come to an end. That is not something anyone can promise because the lead time to install all these mechanisms is quite long.”
He said even if government was to bring power ships, like other countries have done, that too would take long.
Ramaphosa said the government needs to hasten the pace and work on procurement systems to enable the installation of further energy capacity.
He said options were numerous but what was urgent was to immediately bring down load-shedding from level 6. He said even level 2 was not going to be satisfactory to the people.
“That needs to be done and we then need to move forward to embarking on initiatives. The initiatives are credible and there are quite a number of them. We just need to deal with the skills and the capacity and also management and oversight.”
He said the state will have to eliminate the red tape that is usually blamed for delays in government.
The president said there are continuous complaints that procurement is hamstrung by the Public Finance Management Act. However, whenever he asks for concrete examples so the Treasury could be approached to lift restrictions, or have an amendment or exemption from the auditor-general, “comrades and officials are very slow on coming up with some of these”.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.