President Cyril Ramaphosa’s claim that he is not obligated by the constitution to resolve South Africa’s Eskom crisis has sparked criticism from political parties and commentators. They argue that the president has a constitutional duty to the people of the country, which includes solving the crippling energy crisis.
This comes after Ramaphosa submitted an affidavit in a case brought by the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and 17 other parties and trade unions, clarifying the government’s stance on the provision of electricity under the constitution. The president stated in the affidavit that the three branches of government are not required by the constitution to perform powers not vested in them.
The group is seeking a declaration from the high court that the ANC-led government’s response to load shedding is unconstitutional and a violation of fundamental human rights. The case is scheduled to be heard on March 20th.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa stated that the ruling party and its ministers, including Gwede Mantashe, Fikile Mbalula, and Pravin Gordhan, should be held directly responsible for the energy crisis. He further added that the ANC should apologize and return the money stolen from Eskom.
In court documents, the parties claim that the construction of the Medupi power station was carried out improperly, and that Hitachi, a Japanese company, was awarded the tender to construct both Medupi and Kusile without having the necessary expertise in the South African coal industry.
Outgoing former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter also submitted an affidavit in the case, stating that the decisions of the ANC-led government dating back to 1998 are directly responsible for the current state of load shedding in South Africa.
Energy analyst Tshepo Kgadima stated in an interview that Ramaphosa is shirking responsibility, and that there appears to be a complete disregard for national legislation. He added that the Eskom Conversion Act of 2001 placed the responsibility on the Public Enterprises minister.
Vuyo Zungula, leader of ATM, stated that the country does not have a president who has its best interests at heart. Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem said that the party was not surprised by Ramaphosa’s response and called it insensitive and irresponsible.
Acting Eskom spokesperson Daphne Mokwena declined to comment, saying the matter would be discussed in court this month. The Presidency released a statement disputing the reports about Ramaphosa’s affidavit and emphasized the president’s commitment to ending load shedding as a matter of urgency. The presidency stated that the focus given to resolving the energy crisis and the actions taken so far demonstrate that neither the president nor the government have shirked their responsibility for ending load shedding and ensuring energy security for the country.