LETTER: SA’s liberation from load-shedding lies in liberalisation and deregulation
Government holds a legal monopoly on the provision of electricity through its control of Eskom and of Nersa
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) and 18 others are suing government for failing to address rolling blackouts. In his replying affidavit President Cyril Ramaphosa says the constitution does not contain a right to electricity or an obligation on the central government to provide it.
The president’s response is deeply misleading. The Electricity Regulation Act makes the central government sovereign in all electricity-related affairs above a backup battery supply or diesel generator. Nobody – no community association, company or even an individual – is allowed to generate, distribute or trade in notable quantities of electricity without permission from a large, complicated, and by all accounts inefficient, government bureaucracy. When it comes to electricity, most South Africans are entirely at the mercy of government, through no choice of their own. Municipalities play a limited constitutional role in electricity reticulation.
Government, headed by Ramaphosa, in effect holds a legal monopoly on the provision of electricity through its control of Eskom and of the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa), which falls under the jurisdiction of the department of mineral resources & energy. It is patently obvious that this monopoly is failing to deliver.
SA’s liberation from load-shedding lies in liberalisation and deregulation, and bringing about a reality where government in fact plays little or no role in electricity generation. Only then would Ramaphosa’s view cohere with reality, and the central government would indeed be under no obligation to provide electricity. For now, all Ramaphosa is doing is abdicating responsibility.
Martin van Staden
Institute of Race Relations
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