Questions surrounding the energy crisis in South Africa were addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa during a parliamentary hearing in Cape Town on Thursday. One of the central topics was Public Enterprise Minister Pravin Gordhan’s appeal against the Pretoria High Court’s recent decision to exempt schools, hospitals, and police stations from load shedding. The court had given the minister 60 days to exempt these buildings due to human rights violations enshrined in the country’s Constitution, which holds access to education, healthcare, and security as essential to South African citizenship. During the hearing, an Inkatha Freedom Party parliamentarian, Narend Singh, questioned the appeal, saying that excluding these places from load shedding was “practically impossible” due to the mechanics of the electrical grid.
Ramaphosa agreed with Singh’s assessment of the situation, stating that rolling blackouts were necessary to avoid a complete collapse of the electrical grid. Though the court had ordered Gordhan to exempt these buildings, the process is “impractical.” The president emphasized that the move to exclude essential institutions from load shedding was not an “arrogant” attempt to second-guess the court but a necessary step to save the grid from collapse.
This is just one piece of a larger puzzle that the government is attempting to solve as they work to combat the ongoing energy crisis.
Here is what else we learned from the parliamentary hearing:
Renewable energy transition: South Africa’s Just Energy Transition Investment Plan aims to transition to renewable energy over the next five years. Ramaphosa highlighted that procuring emergency power from other countries is necessary in the short-term to prevent a grid collapse but pointed out that environmental organizations had blocked the sourcing of emergency power, citing environmental concerns.
Emergency energy: The president called on the need for emergency power, pointing to other African countries that have used emergency energy imports to solve their energy problems. However, Ramaphosa noted that sourcing fossil fuels for emergency power is only an interim solution and that long-term solutions must be put in place.
Mining industry: The recent discovery of ore in the Northern Cape was discussed, with Ramaphosa pointing out that magnetite rock contains minerals, mapping it to fulfill the Just Energy Transition Investment Plan as South Africa transitions towards a green economy. Democratic Alliance leader John Steenhuisen questioned the president on mining and whether the ruling African National Congress (ANC) supported expropriation of mines, to which Ramaphosa replied that they do not have a policy for expropriation.
South Africa’s responsibility: Ramaphosa acknowledged that South Africa is one of the largest fossil fuel emitters in Africa. While he emphasized the need to combat climate change, he also stated that the country must make its own decisions rather than adopting the standards of other nations in the global north that are responsible for most of the world’s fossil fuel emissions.
Though the current situation remains challenging, it is good to know that the government is making efforts to address the energy crisis. While there are no immediate solutions, they continue to work towards a sustainable and green future.